Part comedy, part love story, part murder mystery, ‘Curtains’ is a musical within a musical

It’s a special kind of treat when I get to view a play or musical I’ve never seen before. I revel in the excitement of not knowing what’s about to happen, of not knowing really anything about what I’m about to see. This was the case with Curtains, A Musical Whodunit.

It’s an even better kind of treat when that musical knocks your socks off. Not only is Curtains a musical whodunit, it’s also a musical within a musical. Sign me up! It opens with the opening night of the musical Robbin’ Hood. If you’re not paying attention, you just might think these are some really bad actors. But actually, they’re really good actors playing really bad actors. That’s our first hint that this is not your typical musical.

When a player ends up dead, there’s debate among the company—must the show go on?  The producers insist it must, while the we’re-not-quite-sure-why-they’re-so-underpaid actors are eager to call it quits.

And then Detective Cioffi arrives on the scene and sequesters the group in the theatre in order to solve the murder. But he’s got a surprising ulterior motive: to improve the musical while he’s at it. Cioffi is expertly played by newcomer to the Candlelight, Damon Guerrasio. Cioffi teeters on the edge of professional murder solver and eager musical lover and sometimes player. Throughout the play we’re unsure why he’s keeping everyone in the theater —whether it’s to catch the murderer or to make sure the play, in which his new love interest, Niki Harris (Sarah Forman), is starring, becomes a hit.

Musical within a musical? Check. Love story? Check (actually double this as there is indeed not one but two love stories here). Murder mystery? Check. Laughter? Check, and not just from musical aficionado and sometimes detective Cioffi, but also from the producer, Carmen (Annie Dwyer) who hits the audience with subtle asides leaving them laughing well after the fact, and the director, Belling (Eddie Schumacher) who has a terrible time ever hiding his true feelings about the actors, especially the deceased, or the musical and its ability to suck.

Through it all, the show must go on and the actors continue rehearsing whilst sequestered in the theater — this time with new direction from Cioffi. With this unique setup comes a variety of costumes and sets for both shows.

But wait, it says this is a musical comedy whodunit, so, the music! The songs were lively and catchy including “The Woman’s Dead” sung by the entire company in the first act. It’s a sort of lighthearted and playful obituary for the murdered actor that offers lots of laughs throughout. It’s reprised in the second act, but this time it’s “The Man is Dead.” Oh, so maybe there’s more than one murder.

Curtains, A Musical Whodunit is a ton of fun, a little mystery, and lots of memorable songs put on by a stellar cast. Its 20 plus actors effortlessly work together playing a cast of possible next victims — all while the show does indeed go on.