A Musical Murder Mystery with Plenty of Intrigue: The Island Theater’s “Curtains”

Jessica Crenshaw is terribly untalented. When the leading lady mysteriously dies during opening night of Robbin’ Hood of the Old West, the rest of the cast isn’t terribly upset…. Apart from the fact that a murder has occurred and they’re all suspects.

It’s up to the Boston Police Department’s Lieutenant Frank Cioffi (played by Chase Lawless) to solve the crime. Believing the murderer is still in the building, he sequesters it and begins his investigation. Is the killer producer Carmen Bernstein (Laura Moussakhani) or her philandering husband, Sidney Bernstein (Mac McDonald)? Or perhaps one of the divorced songwriting team, Aaron Fox (Steven Amburgey) or Georgia Hendricks (Cynthia Baker)? Could it be Georgia’s handsome love interest and leading man, Bobby Pepper (Nikolas Wendorf), or perhaps the exceedingly ambitious Bambi Bernet (Chandler Spivey)? Certainly not the detective’s new love interest, overlooked understudy Niki Harris (Abby Poll)?

The show must go on and theater-enthusiast Detective Coiffi becomes embroiled in helping fix the show’s numerous problems while also trying to solve the murder. Drama and tensions arise, secrets are uncovered, love interests develop, and more murders occur before the culprit is climatically revealed. Can the show be saved, the mystery solved, and love conquer all before anyone else dies?

The Musical Comedy Whodunit Curtains from the creators of “Cabaret” and “Chicago is a play within a play. Directed by Stephanie Navarro, it runs from January 11-20 at Fleming Island’s The Island Theater. “Curtains” features a vibrant local cast, many of whom have performed at The Island Theater time and again. The setting is 1959 Boston at the Colonial Theater, which was beautifully reflected by the cast’s costumes. Lively and enchanting, “Curtains” is brimming with witty one-liners and amusing musical numbers like “She Did It” and irreverent songs such as “The Woman’s Dead.” Theatergoers will get caught up in the characters’ complicated lives and especially the solving of the murder mystery.

Curtains, The Island Theater, Fleming Island

The Island Theater’s Managing Director Tricia Williams killed it as Director Christa Belling, an Edna Mode-esque powerhouse who had the audience roaring with laughter with her punchy one-liners, like “We need a new number. We need something catchier than pink eye,” or, “What are you going to do with her killer, give them a trophy or a Pontiac convertible?” She rocked the role and was one of my favorite characters by far.

Chase Lawless brought Lieutenant Frank Cioffi to life masterfully, crafting a nervous but likable detective whom the audience couldn’t help but root for.

Abby Polli was absolutely charming as sweet and naïve Niki Harris, though she had us thinking for a while that she just might be a killer.

Curtains, The Island Theater, Fleming Island

Prepare to be swept up in this story. These actors and actresses do a great job. The music is marvelous. It’s a murder mystery fit for Hallmark, incredibly cute and fun.

The only thing that keeps “Curtains” from being a family activity is the suggestive themes and language. The language was most shocking to me. I’ve attended The Island Theater before and considering the play had many of the same actors, teens among them, and the cute musical nature of the performance, I did expect it to be more family friendly. There was quite a lot of language—horse shit, Goddamn, shit, tits, bitch, etc– especially in the first half. It did little to enhance the story, and would prevent me from bringing my family back to see it again. Suggestive comments went over my 14-year-old’s head and were funny to the adult audience, but the language was blatant and because of that I can’t recommend it as a family activity. I hope that The Island Theater will include some sort of warning about content or language for future shows.

All in all, “Curtains” offers guests a great time. Come out and see this fabulous local cast in action. Just leave the kids at home. I enjoyed the story, especially not knowing the plotline ahead of time. It unfolded well and the ending was truly surprising. Bravo! I look forward to seeing what this community theater does next.


About Jennifer Melville

Jennifer Melville is a contributing writer for EU Jacksonville, South Magazine, Folio Magazine, Green Prints, Focus on the Family, and various other print and online publications. She’s a military wife, mother of four, and a leader in the NE Florida homeschooling community. You can check out more of her work on her website, Azalea Publications or follow her on Twitter.