As someone who is obsessed with television and film, I rarely attend musical theatre, but last week I was lucky enough to take in a MacEwan University production encompassing all that makes live theatre loveable: murder, mystery, melodies, choreography, and comedy sprinkled throughout.
Curtains tells the story of a 1950s Boston theatre show that inexplicably loses its talentless leading lady during curtain call on the opening night of their new play. Soon after, Boston police lieutenant Frank Cioffi, played by the palatable Adam Houston, arrives to solve the case and save the play.
Before the show, I interrogated Arielle Ballance, the musical director and MacEwan alum, to hear her take on the play.
“[Murder mystery] not being a very common genre of musical theatre, it sort of carries the excitement of solving a mystery while getting to attend a musical, which I think is very fun for the audience,” she says.
The musical melodies feature strong vocal performances to keep the audience engaged and enchanted. Standouts include Georgia Hendricks and Niki Harris, played respectively by Michelle Diaz and Natasha Mason.
“My first job is to teach them their music, their rhythm, their harmonies — and once all that is learned, we go a little further to talk about dynamics and little nuances we can put into the music,” says Ballance.
The play within a play offers a look into the inner workings of a theatre production; with parts of the story taking you in and around a set, you get a quick lesson on theatre production by just watching the show. If you haven’t taken in a play at the charming John L. Haar Theatre at MacEwan’s Centre for the Arts and Communications (CFAC), Curtains is a good opportunity to do so. This ensemble cast delivers a memorable performance that fills the four corners of the stage. In particular, Nicholas Rose performs marvellously as the fictional director within the play.
With vibrant costume designs by Lisa Hancharek, the wardrobes take you back to a time when men wore suits and hats. If you plan to attend a showing this week, I’d like to offer a fair warning to people with heart conditions: the faux gunshots that go off during the play are startling, and, just like the surprise of the killer, you will not see them coming! What you can anticipate is an exceptional production thanks to Dave Horak, director and MacEwan instructor.
I encourage MacEwan students to check out Curtains during the last few show times from Feb. 9-13. Show your support for the tremendous efforts of your fellow students. During intermission, make a game of trying to guess the guilty party in the story before the reveal in the second act. The show runs for the remainder of this week, but why delay? You can reserve your tickets to the show by visiting tixonthesquare.ca before the final curtain drops.
Photo supplied by Steven Stefaniuk.