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It’s ‘Curtains’ for LMC

Article Published: Sep. 29, 2011 | Modified: Oct. 6, 2011
It’s ‘Curtains’ for LMC

Actors in the Lees-McRae College Performing Arts Department rehearse the ‘play within a play’ in preparation for opening night of ‘Curtains’ Sept. 30 at Hayes Auditorium in Banner Elk.

Photo by Jeff Eason

“Curtains.” Is it a comedy, musical or whodunit mystery?

According to Lees-McRae College instructor and director Michael Hannah, it’s a deft blend of all three styles of theater with some old-school techniques thrown in for good measure.

“It’s built on the old style of musical comedy,” Hannah said. “It just feels like an old-style musical with big choral and dance numbers.”

“Curtains,” featuring a cast of Lees-McRae performing arts students, will be presented at the Hayes Auditorium in Banner Elk Sept. 30 through Oct. 4.

The show takes place in 1959 and revolves around a theater group putting on a western-themed version of “Robin Hood” in Boston in preparation for the show’s big move to Broadway.

“‘Curtains’ is a backstage whodunit in which an over-hyped and no-talent star named Jessica Cranshaw is murdered during her first curtain call,” Hannah said. “A Boston detective is called in to solve the crime, and everyone’s a suspect — the domineering producer, the formerly married songwriting team, the egotistical director and a chorus full of Broadway hopefuls.”

According to Hannah, this “play within a play” creates endless possibilities for comedy, and the music, written by John Kander, Fred Ebb and Rupert Holmes, is classic Broadway fare.

“This was the last musical that the songwriting team of Kander and Ebb worked on before Fred Ebb died,” Hannah said. “They were the team responsible for shows, such as ‘Cabaret,’ ‘Chicago’ and ‘Kiss of the Spider Woman.’

“Kander wrote the music, and Ebb wrote the lyrics. ‘Curtains’ features a heartfelt ballad called ‘I Miss the Music’ that the character Aaron sings about his ex-wife, Georgia. Kander wrote both the music and the lyrics to it after Ebb died, and it’s just a very moving tribute to his musical partner.”

After Cranshaw is murdered on opening night, the cast doesn’t know whether to carry on without her or pack their bags and return to New York. As it turns out, Boston detective Cioffi is a bit of an amateur thespian himself, and he convinces them to carry on with the play with the big show-stopping number, “Show People.”

“Cioffi reminds them who they are and why they do what they do with this number,” Hannah said. “I think this is one of these songs that will be emblematic of musicals for a long time.”

The LMC production of “Curtains” is the first of two big shows that the students will present this school year. The second one is “Baby” and will be presented next February.

“‘Curtains’ has a cast of 28, with 11 leads,” Hannah said. “Of course, this being a murder mystery, some of the cast gets murdered rather quickly. A lot of the chorus are freshmen because we have a big class of BFA candidates this year. So, the audience is going to see a lot of new faces. This is one of those shows where a lot of actors will get lead and chorus work.”

According to Hannah, the show is appropriate for all ages, although much of the backstage theater talk is sure to go over the heads of little children.

“When I first saw ‘Curtains’ on Broadway a few years ago, I didn’t imagine that I’d eventually be directing it for Lees-McRae, but it is a great choice for us,” Hannah said. “‘Curtains’ is a new musical written to look and sound like an old-fashioned show with wonderful music, great characters and a lot of fun.”

Tickets & Times

“Curtains” opens on Friday, Sept. 30, at 7:30 p.m. in Hayes Auditorium with additional performances Oct. 1, 3 and 4 at 7:30 p.m., with a Sunday matinee performance Oct. 2 at 2 p.m.

Tickets are general admission and may be purchased at the door. Tickets are $12 for adults and $5 for students and children.

For more information, call the Hayes Auditorium box office at (828) 898-8709.

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