A murder mystery “whodunit,” comedy and musical all wrapped up in a show within in a show – that’s how directors and cast at Covenant Day School describe their up-and-coming production of “Curtains.”
The story revolves around the cast of “Robbin’ Hood of the Old West,” a bad Western adaptation of Robin Hood, when the untalented leading lady Jessica Cranshaw is murdered on set before opening night. The cast of the show is forced to recoup and fix the show’s problems while Lt. Frank Cioffi of the Boston Police Department is called in to solve the homicide. But Cioffi’s intentions change as he becomes more involved with saving the show than solving the crime, all while falling for the leading lady’s understudy, Niki, who is booted out of the starring role by lyricist Georgia Hendricks.
“Basically, we are looking at a murder that occurs on the set of a Broadway musical,” Barbara Chase, the show’s assistant director, said. “So it’s a show within a show. Students are playing roles within the show, and then they are also playing stage characters.”
The production, featuring about 30 to 35 ninth- through 12th-graders at Covenant Day School, will run Feb. 6 to 8 at 7 p.m. each night, with an additional 2 p.m. matinee performance on Feb. 8 under the direction of Covenant Day teacher Charlene Thomas. Tickets are $10 and available online at www.covenantday.org/cdsenews.
The performance will be the school’s second entry for Blumenthal Performing Arts’ Blumey Awards, which celebrate and recognize the best high school musical theater in Charlotte. Covenant Day students performed their rendition of Broadway classic “Beauty and the Beast” last year and racked up nine nominations for the school, including Best Construction, Best Hair and Makeup Design, Best Choreography, Best Ensemble/Chorus, Best Overall Direction, Best Featured Performer, Best Supporting Actress, Best Actor and Wells Fargo Best Musical. The nominations were a great feat for the just five-year-old musical theater program, bringing Covenant Day Theater into the ranks of schools like Charlotte Latin and Charlotte Christian schools. Covenant Day’s own Evan Bertram took the Best Featured Performer award overall with her role as Madame de la Grande Bouche, better known as the talking wardrobe in “Beauty and the Beast.”
“I worked very hard for it, but I didn’t actually think it could happen,” Evan, now a junior, said about bringing home Covenant Day’s lone award. “(The Blumeys were) a big deal because that was really the first time people heard of us in the theater aspect. I thought we represented ourselves very well, and I hope we can do the same this year.”
This year in “Curtains,” Evan is playing the role of Georgia Hendricks, who steps in to take the lead role of the Robin Hood show when Jessica Cranshaw is murdered. It’s a different role than last year’s Madame.
“It’s a lot of research,” Evan said about getting into different characters, “and taking my own experiences in my every day life with the mentality of that character. It’s a little bit of myself and a little bit of Georgia, which makes the character who she really is.”
This year’s production of “Curtains” also will differ from last year’s “Beauty and the Beast” since the show will primarily take place backstage of a Broadway musical, Chase said. While last year’s stage included a two-story castle, this year’s set design will mostly consist of uncluttered space.
“Most backstages are pretty empty with black floors, maybe a spotlight and a few props,” Chase said. “Last year, the story was so well known, we had to have unique props. The emphasis this year is the story line – the murder mystery.”
Cast members like sophomore Caleb Clarke, a south Charlotte resident, hope to use the unknown script to their favor in this year’s Blumey Awards competition. Caleb is playing the role of Cioffi. While it’s his third production with the school, Caleb is always excited to take on the role of someone else – that’s what makes theater fun, he said, and what makes “Curtains” particularly unique, as cast members at times are playing two different characters.
“It’s giving people a behind-the-scenes look of what goes into a show like this, and it’s just hilarious. The characters are so complex,” Caleb said. “People haven’t heard of ‘Curtains,’ but we hope to use that to our advantage. We just want to put on a good show and do the very best we can.”