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Behind 'Curtains,' a backstage musical mystery

Musical TheaterJohn KanderTony Awards

When the curtain goes up on "Curtains" for a two-weekend run starting this Friday, May 16, at 8 p.m., Silhouette Stages will have brought yet another musical to the stage at Slayton House Theatre.

This Columbia-based theater company has a history of doing small-scale, little-known or somehow neglected shows and demonstrating why they deserve another chance in the spotlight.

"Curtains" was created by the songwriting team of composer John Kander and lyricist Fred Ebb, who were famous for such Broadway hits as "Cabaret" and "Chicago," but this more recent show did not fare nearly as well in its initial New York run.

It's exactly the kind of show that Silhouette Stages' president Mo Dutterer loves to do.

"When I started Shadow Block Productions in 2002, now Silhouette Stages, the purpose of the group was to present small-cast, little-known musicals that would possibly broaden the horizons of our Howard County theatergoing audiences," Dutterer said. "So we did 'Quilters,' 'Lucky Stiff,' 'Radio Hour,' 'Working,' 'Violet' and a lot of other musicals like that.

"In the past few years we have gotten away from that a lot by doing larger musicals, both in scope, expense, and cast size," he said. "Although we have a larger cast with 'Curtains' by our early show criteria, it is basically a little-known Kander and Ebb show, compared to 'Chicago' and 'Cabaret.' "

The initial production of "Curtains" had a troubled start. This musical's original book writer, Peter Stone, died in 2003. Then lyricist Fred Ebb died in 2004, after which Rupert Holmes wrote the book and assisted with additional lyrics.

Although "Curtains" received a lukewarm critical response when it finally opened on Broadway in 2007 and was not a commercial success, it was nominated for eight Tony Awards, including Best Musical.

"Curtains" received its belated premiere in the Baltimore area when it was staged by Cockpit in Court Summer Theatre in Essex in 2010. That local production made it clear that this inside-showbiz-themed musical comedy, though not without its flaws, nevertheless deserves to be seen and heard.

The murder mystery story in "Curtains" takes place during a pre-Broadway run for a fictitious musical titled "Robbin' Hood" at the Colonial Theater in Boston. The untalented leading lady in "Robbin' Hood" has been murdered during her opening number, and a police detective investigates backstage in order to solve the murder case and, while he's at it, save the show.

The Silhouette Stages production of "Curtains" is co-directed by Conni Ross and Debbie Mobley, with musical direction by Michael Tan, and choreography by Katie Sheldon.

Actors in principal roles include Ryan Geiger, Lisa Pastella, Michele Guyton, Andrea Bush, Jim Gross, Alex Porter, Rick Robertson, Angie Stein, Brian Mellen, Amy Haynes, John Sheldon, Andrew Worthington, Suzanne Young and Michael Tan.

Appearing in the ensemble are Lisa Sharpe, Emily Biondi, Reenie Campbell, Vince Vuono, Kendra Keiser, Renee Eisenhuth, Katie Jones, Kelly Meyers, Kelly Rardon, Neal Townsend, Cory Wagner and Jose Teneza.

"Curtains" runs May 16, 17, 23 and 24 at 8 p.m., and May 18 and 25 at 3 p.m. at Slayton House Theatre, 10400 Cross Fox Lane in Wilde Lake Village in Columbia. Tickets are $20, $17 for seniors, military and full-time students. Call 410-637-5289 or go to http://www.silhouettestages.com.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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Musical TheaterJohn KanderTony Awards
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