Marena Hunter

Curtain call

South Island Musical Theatre Society performs murder mystery show at the Port Theatre

By Peter Rusland

Black Press

Director Drew Kemp promises a comical ride from his ribald musical murder-mystery Curtains at the Port Theatre Saturday (Feb. 26).

“It’s down, dirty, and nasty and naughty, and everyone should have fun,” the veteran director with Cowichan Valley-based South Island Musical Theatre Society said of this edgy work penned by John Kander and Fred Ebb, who also wrote Chicago and Cabaret.

The 1940s-era farce features 20 actors and 17 musicians.

“It’s about the zany life of people on Broadway and it’s every stereotype: from the choreographer boyfriend, to the scheming director to the critic with his finger in the pie,” Kemp said.

“It’s got lots of adult stuff and it really needs a caution: this is not for young children,” he said. “Characters use four-letter words, and comments are double entendre.”

The whodunit’s plot pivots on the death of leading lady, Jessica Cranshaw, an actress of limited singing, acting and dancing ability.

“To the relief of the cast, she is murdered during the opening night curtain call,” said Marion Priestley, the actress playing Cranshaw.

The company comes under suspicion so Boston Police Lt. Frank Cioffi, played by Jim Cleough, a theatre buff who falls for a cast member and arrives to solve the crime.

Suspects include singing lyricist, Georgia, played by Marena Hunter in her first role with the musical theatre society.

“Georgia’s part of the songwriting team but she’s left her husband out of need as he’s too preoccupied with his music,” Hunter said. “Curtains is hilarious with so many elements to it. The moral is that no one is as they seem.”

That’s usually the situation in farce, Kemp said.

“Comedy’s hard to do, and this is all comedy,” he said. “The trick to farce is to play it for real and not try to make lines funny — the comedy comes from the realness of the situation.”

Creating the appropriate sound among the onstage band with a tricky score is the challenge for musical director Hilary Coupland.

“There are no strings except for a bass,” she said. “It’s all winds and brass and percussion, like a stage band.

“It’s a tricky score because there’s lots of underscoring underneath the dialogue that has to be worked out between orchestra and singers.”

Curtains opens Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and continues Sunday (Feb. 27) at 2 p.m.

Tickets $30; $27/members; $25/students.

Please call 250-754-8550 or visit www.porttheatre.com.

arts@nanaimobulletin.com