‘Curtains’ at Music Mountain Theatre

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Kasey Ivan Photography
Cast of 'Curtains' at Music Mountain Theatre in Lambertville.

Music Mountain Theatre (MMT) in Lambertville continued the second season when “Curtains” opened on Oct. 5.

Directed by Michael Moeller, the musical comedy was so much fun to watch as MMT put on a wonderful performance.

Taking place in 1959 at the Colonial Theatre in Boston, a new musical titled “Robbin’ Hood” is in its final scene. The female lead in the play, Jessica Crenshaw (Lauren Brader), is putting on a noticeably awful performance and it is clear the cast just wants the show to end.

The play does eventually end and as the cast takes their final bows to the audience, Crenshaw is handed two bouquets of roses and immediately collapses behind the closing curtains.

Crenshaw is immediately sent to the hospital while everyone stays at the theater waiting for the reviews to hit the presses to see what the critics thought. Carmen Bernstein (Anna Hentz), the co-producer, waits with divorced songwriting team Aaron Fox (Gigi Gibilisco) and Georgia Hendricks (Jill Palena), as well as the play’s financial backer, Oscar Shapiro (Eddie Honan).

All of the reviews come back and the show was rated as an immediate disaster. The director, Christopher Belling (David Whiteman), enters the scene and announces he has had an epiphany. He is cut off as the stage manager, Johnny Harmon (Tim Chastain), enters to tell Carmen she has a phone call waiting for her. Carmen suspects it is her husband, Sydney, who is in New York on business.

Aaron and Georgia begin to argue regarding Georgia’s reasons for joining the production. Aaron suspects it is only to get back together with her ex, Bobby Pepper (Matthew Robinson), who is playing the male lead in the show.

Belling requests Georgia sings the female lead’s opening number and after an amazing performance, he announces his plan to replace Crenshaw with Georgia.

Carmen re-enters and informs everyone it was the hospital who was calling to say Crenshaw has died. No one shows any kind of sympathy and it is clear most of them are pleased.

Lieutenant Frank Cioffi (Louis Palena) enters the stage and tells everyone how much he enjoyed the show, with the exception of Crenshaw, and then informs everyone Crenshaw was murdered.

The cast hears the news, and they all attempt to leave and quit. Carmen tries to convince everyone to stay, but the cast continues to attempt to quit, including Bambi (Amanda Torsilieri), a lead dancer in the production, whose real name is Elaine and is Carmen’s daughter.

Cioffi, who reveals himself to be an amateur performer and theater enthusiast, agrees with Carmen and tells the cast the show needs to go on.

The cast eventually agrees to continue the production, and Carmen tells everyone she will take them out for a drink. But as they go to leave, Cioffi informs them since Crenshaw was murdered on stage, the murderer must be someone in the theater and no one is allowed to leave until he figures out who it is.

Sydney (Roger Madding), Carmen’s husband, enters the stage, as he has returned early from his trip to New York. Cioffi begins to question him and Sydney informs him of where he has been. Sydney is immediately off the suspect list.

Cioffi is now left alone with Niki Harris (Jaime Geddes), Georgia’s understudy. We can see the connection the two share, as Cioffi tells Harris about his lonely life and how he is married to his work. The two obviously like each other and Cioffi hopes she is not the killer.

The next day, Georgia begins to learn dance as Bobby attempts to teach her the choreography. Cioffi then enters and meets Daryl Grady (Rhett Commodaro), the critic from the Boston Globe who wrote the bad review for the show. Grady points out he did praise the choreography in the production, as well as Niki Harris’s performance. Cioffi questions Grady as to how he was able to enter the theater, but because he is a member of the press, he is exempt from the investigation.

Carmen and Sydney see Grady and plead with him to re-review the show now Georgia is the lead. He reluctantly agrees, but says he will review tomorrow’s performance, giving them little to no time to prepare.

Director Belling tries to rearrange a number that features Georgia, Niki and Bambi, and Cioffi suggests to him the song might need to be rewritten. Belling agrees and tells Aaron to rewrite the number.

Cioffi is now left alone with Aaron as he shows the detective his writing process. Through their conversation, Aaron reveals to him he is still in love with his ex-wife, Georgia.

Georgia and the cast begin to rehearse another number from their performance as Georgia puts on a spectacular performance. The cast begins to think they can pull off an amazing performance and hope is restored in the theater.

Cioffi then re-enters the stage and informs everyone he has just discovered Sydney has been blackmailing every cast member in the production in order for them to perform for little to no money.

The cast is now relieved they no longer can be blackmailed, but Cioffi reminds them they are all still suspects.

The curtain is dropped on their rehearsal; but as it comes down, Sydney is tied to the other end by his neck and the first act closes with another member of the theater being murdered.

Music Mountain Theatre put on such a delightful show. Every single member of the cast was flawless in their performance and the musical was such a joy to watch. From the show’s hilarious dialogue to the powerful voices on stage, “Curtains” is one of MMT’s best productions.

Honorable Mentions:

Louis Palena as Lt. Frank Cioffi: Palena is the star of the show. His performance is a lot of fun to watch. He brings a fun and humorous approach to the lieutenant. Palena’s incredible acting is matched by his singing voice. He really captures his character.

Anna Hentz as Carmen Bernstein: The power of Hentz’s voice can not go unmentioned. Hentz has such a lovely voice; any time she entered the stage, I was pleased to see her as I looked forward hearing her sing. Bringing wit to the stage as well, her character, Carmen, is able to dish out humor like it is her job.

“Curtains” continues at Music Mountain Theatre, 1483 Route 179 Lambertsville, through Oct. 21. For tickets and information, go to www.musicmountaintheatre.org; 609-397-3337.