Review - Edinburgh Fringe
The Stepinac Drama Club represented the the United States at the 2009 American Theatre Festival in Edinburgh, Scotland. The Fringe Festival showcased our nation's best at the world's largest performing arts festival. Their performance of Curtainsreceived a stellar review from the Fringe Festival critic.
Broadway Baby review
Murder Most Comical!
Reviewed by Jay Hobday
August 23, 2009
Top 50 Reviewer
Kander and Ebb are legends of Musical Theatre with such behemoths as 'Chicago' and 'Cabaret' under their belts. So I had high hopes for the European premiere of their show 'Curtains' by the American High School Theatre Festival. The basic premise is that, after an opening night performance, the hopeless star of a musical is murdered and the cast are quarantined inside the theatre until the culprit is found. It's a madcap whodunit filled with toe-tapping Kander and Ebb tunes. Full of twists and turns to keep you guessing until the very end, it's a more than enjoyable farce that keeps the audience interested.
The youthful cast handle the comic material and complicated dance numbers brilliantly and with a huge company of 37 the ensemble numbers feel enormous. It says a lot about the professionalism of these kids that they can have a reviewer sit prominently in front of them and sing the critic-blasting song 'What Kind Of Man Would Want A Job Like That?' without flinching once. Kudos. There are some wonderful voices in the principal cast, Emily Schlotman as 'Georgia Hendricks' setting the standard for everyone else with a clear ringing voice that will only get better with experience, and Patrick Finn as 'Aaron Fox' belting out a beautifully touching solo. Big dance numbers are executed with ease and wonderful technique, though I did spot a few slackers hiding towards the back. Annie Betz as 'Bambi Bernet' is particularly effervescent with a wonderful character to boot.
Notable in their superior characterization skills though are Jillian Sayegh as 'Carmen Bernstien', Chris Mastrocola as 'Christopher Belling' and the superb Julian Amato as 'Lt. Frank Cioffi'. Sayegh is utterly convincing in her role as bolshy producer Carmen, her facial expressions, even from the very outskirts of the action, often having me in hysterics. Mastrocolo is wonderfully energetic in his depiction of camp director Chris and with some of the funniest (and most scathing) lines in the show, is a pleasure to behold as he struts about the stage. But it's Amato for me who holds the whole thing together. He sustains his character, with its difficult accent, for the entire performance and is so believable that you almost forget he is still in school. He projects an air of authority when necessary and yet can switch to a simpering lover with a moment's notice.
It's irritating when such stellar performances by a youthful, enthusiastic cast are let down by technical issues that could be easily rectified. I completely lost track of the plot for a while after being so distracted in one scene by the overpowering noise made by a microphone that had been left on backstage. Hearing cast members muttering and changing is enough to detract from any scene; when it goes on for an uncomfortably long time at full volume, it's enough to make you want to march up to the sound desk and turn it off yourself. Mic levels overall needed looking at, with more powerful singers drowning out others and lines undulating between being deafening and silent.
Otherwise, this is a fabulous production by a wonderful cast. The lighting is spectacular, with some beautiful spotlighting by Alex Fonseca and Cameron Khorassani. The band was spot on too, filling the auditorium and keeping the pace flowing. 'Curtains' is delightful to watch and will have you smiling and humming the tunes for days afterwards. 'What Kind Of Person Would Do A Job Like That?'... If I get to see shows like this then I'm more than happy to say I'm that person.