Curtain should drop on this show early

By Steve Dunkelberger on October 7, 2009

Curtain should drop on this show early
By Steve Dunkelberger

Tacoma Musical Playhouse is marking its sweet 16th year with its season opener, Curtains. The show, which is centered around Boston’s Colonial Theatre as it stages a new Broadway bound work — if only there were a few revisions. One of those revisions includes the lead actress getting offed, which happens in short order. In comes the detective, Lt. Frank Cioffi (played by Mark Rake-Marona) to solve this musical mystery. Two more bodies pile up before the final curtain falls on the show – which, of course, sees the murders solved, new love sparked and old love rekindled – all the makings of a classic musical.

The show is an original musical comedy with a book by Tony Award winner Rupert Holmes, from The Mystery of Edwin Drood and Say Goodnight Gracie. Music and lyrics were penned by the Tony Award-winning team of John Kander and Fred Ebb, who did Cabaret, Chicago and New York, New York Finally, the original book and concept is credited to Tony Award winner Peter Stone, who did 1776, Titanic, and The Will Rogers Follies.

Basically, the show had all the right street cred to work. It just didn't do it for me. TMP has staged better. To be fair, it has staged worse. But it has certainly staged better, and it is tough to say where it goes wrong.

Managing Artistic Director Jon Douglas Rake nails the role of the snooty theater director and coordinates some of the best choreography that has taken to that stage. The sets were fun and inviting. The orchestra was balanced and full, as usual for TMP.

I can't really point out just one actor who didn't bring his or her best for this show. Since most of the playbill is made up of known names in theater circles, it would be best to just say that this show was not the best work landed by the cast. All the technical parts were there, the voices were loud enough and the diction was clear enough. But there was just no energy. It was like going through a walk through of the show after a week off. I wanted pop and wow; and I got slump and fizzle.

The show just seemed to run long — even for two and a half hours — with slow transitions and less than memorable music. The whole cast seemed to lack energy and that little something that makes theater sparkle. Maybe it’s because the large cast is cramped on the stage, or perhaps they forgot to drink their Red Bull before the lime lights lit — but the show just didn't shine. And oh did I want it to shine. I am coming off a string of less than stellar work and was targeting this show to redeem my faith in local theater. But no, the talent recession is in full swing around the South Sound for at least another week.

This is a show to miss if you have something else to do on a Friday or Saturday night. It might be worth a matinee rather than a nap on the couch if that is your only option.

[Tacoma Musical Playhouse, Curtains, through Oct. 25, 8 p.m. Friday-Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday, $18-$25, 7116 Sixth Ave., Tacoma, 253.565.6867]