There’s a killer on the loose in this comedy musical — and you won’t want to miss it.
West Orange High School’s theater department will kick off its 2019-20 season with “Curtains” — a unique production from the creators of “Cabaret” and “Chicago” that blends comedy and a murder mystery.
The musical comedy whodunit is set in 1959 in the midst of a theater production of “Robbin’ Hood” — a cowboy Western take on the classic tale.
When the leading actress is suddenly murdered, a detective arrives and is on the case — but he’s far more interested with improving the show than solving the mystery.
“It’s one of those shows that closed prematurely on Broadway — it should have stayed open,” West Orange High School Director of Theatre Tara Whitman said. “It’s a comedy — there’s a lot of parody of golden age musicals in it. The jokes are at theatre people’s expense, which is super fun. It’s also a murder mystery, so that’s the Halloween perfect piece.”
If you’re looking for a good laugh, “Curtains” just might be for you, Whitman said.
“I’m still chuckling at some of the laugh lines in it,” she said. “It really is a good time.”
Whitman added that Rupert Holmes, an original writer behind “Curtains”, is collaborating with West Orange High School to create a brand new scene for the students to perform — an updated version of an original scene that now embraces cultural diversity.
“We’ll be the the first ones to do that,” Whitman said.
Something that makes the West Orange High School theater department unique is the fact that the students design and tech the entire show, she said.
From behind the scenes, seniors and technical directors Patrick Franks and Carlton Morrissey keep things running smoothly — overseeing individual crews and making sure everything is done on time and to a certain standard.
“We’re like the middle ground between crews and the director,” Franks said. “I’m very excited. It means a lot when you work so hard for something to finally have people enjoy the show that you worked so hard to put together.”
Franks said perhaps the greatest challenge with “Curtains” is the fact that it’s a show within a show.
“Not only are we having to do lighting and sound and sets and costumes for the show that this is about, which is ‘Robbin’ Hood,’ we also have to have those aspects for the show ‘Curtains’ itself,” Franks said.
That also leads to a unique set of challenges for the cast itself. Students like senior Jessie Roddy have to play not one but two characters — the character living in 1959 and his or her role in “Robbin’ Hood.”
It’s tricky at times, but it’s been the most fun production the cast has ever been a part of, she said.
“The comedy contributes so much — like it’s true how much fun we’re having on stage with it,” said Roddy, who plays Georgia and Madame Marian. “I personally love murder mysteries, so the fact that it’s all three of those combined — murder mystery, comedy and then just pure fun — it’s just been a great experience.”
Senior Jacob Gonzalez, who plays Lt. Frank Cioffi, said he and the cast can’t wait for audiences to see the show.
“I really like the show because it appeals to everyone; it was the appeal of a golden age musical — though it’s really not but it’s written in the style of one — with elements of comedy and the murder mystery,” Gonzalez said. “If you like any of those things, then you’ll end up enjoying the show.”