'Curtains' opens at GHS

The Enterprise — Marcello Iaia

Death of a leading lady: On opening night of  “Robbin’ Hood of the Old West,” actress Jessica Cranshaw, played by Katelyn O’Hehir, collapses as Niki Harris (Marissa Scotti), center, looks horrified and is comforted by the stage manager, Johnny (Iyal Basen).

GUILDERLAND — The audience at this weekend’s Guilderland Players’ production of “Curtains” will find song, dance, suspense, and a happy ending — in short, they’ll have a rollicking good time.

What will the cast and crew find?

Being part of the play, says its director, English teacher Andy Maycock, helps kids discover truth, sincerity, and silliness.

What kind of truth is there to be found in a musical comedy?

“Relationship truth,” said Maycock, a veteran at directing teenage actors. “The characters fall for each other and care for each other and work things out.”

A young player will see on stage how it looks to be jealous. “I can play that; I’ve had a crush,” an actor will think, said Maycock. “It helps to know these fictional characters aren’t far removed from them.”

He went on, “The more connected they feel, with the parts they play, the more they understand, the more they see they have in common with other people.”

When it comes to discovering sincerity, Maycock said, “I don’t like high school plays that feel theatrical…It should feel natural. The character has to be fluid and comfortable.”

And, yes, the script is a comedy but silliness still has to be discovered, too. “Sometimes the jokes get old,” said Maycock. “We make them new with a different twist.”

At first, he said, the players make each other laugh but, as rehearsals wear on, they need to keep the humor fresh.

An audience can help them discover that. At Wednesday’s dress rehearsal for eighth-graders and then again Thursday night, where part of the auditorium is dedicated to elderly theater-goers, Maycock said, the audience feedback informs the players as they fine tune their performances.

The kids think, “‘Wow, I forgot that was funny’…They rediscover the silliness,” said Maycock.


“Curtains” — which premiered in Los Angeles in 2006 and opened on Broadway in 2007 — is set in 1950s Boston and involves a play within a play. During the opening night of “Robbin’ Hood of the Old West,” the unpopular and untalented leading lady is murdered.

The musical was selected, said Maycock, “because we like Kander and Ebb”; The Guilderland Players have put on musicals by the duo before. “Like in ‘Steel Pier,’ the word play is clever and the music is very danceable,” Maycock said.

Fred Ebb wrote the lyrics and John Kander the music. Ebb died before “Curtains” was completed, and Rupert Holmes stepped in.

“A songwriter team in the show gets split up, so it has an extra meaning,” said Maycock.

Summarizing the plot of “Curtains,” he went on, “After the leading lady dies, they bring in a Boston homicide detective, Lieutenant Cioffi. They shut down the theater until the mystery is solved. The lieutenant is also a song-and-dance man, and he helps save their show.”

The song-and-dance man, played by Avery Maycock, is also a Boston police lieutenant charged with solving the murder of the show’s leading lady. He introduces himself by praising the troupe and then works to improve their show as well as to solve the murder mystery. The Enterprise — Marcello Iaia


The main character, Lt. Cioffi, is played by Avery Maycock, a Guilderland senior in his third musical, and the son of the director.

“He’s a natural leading-man type with very good comic timing and a nice voice,” said the director of Avery.

“There’s a shorthand between the two of us,” Maycock went on. “I can say, ‘Play it like Pacino in one movie but not another movie,’ and he’ll know what I mean.”

Another standout is senior Gianluca Russo who plays the part of Bobby Pepper. “He’s the Robin Hood character,” in the play within the play, said Maycock. “They don’t get much more theatrical than Gianluca…Bobby is not quite as boisterous. Gianluca has to tone it down.”

Joshua Kahn plays the part of Christopher Belling, the director of the play within “Curtains.” The Enterprise — Marcello Iaia


The director Christopher Belling, who is thrilled the leading lady has been killed, is played by senior Joshua Kahn. “He plays his part well…He’s sufficiently energetic as an over-the-top egotistical director,” said Maycock.

Sophomore Anna Fernandez plays the part of Carmen Bernstein, the producer of the show. “She’s sure it’s headed to Broadway despite its troubles,” said Maycock. Fernandez brings “a great voice” to the part. “The vocal director is often telling me, ‘I’ve got chills,’” when Fernandez sings, said Maycock.

Senior Hannah Hernandez plays the part of Georgia Hendricks, a lyricist for the production who is thrust into the role of the lead. “They don’t come any more experienced than Hannah,” said Maycock.

He notes that the names Hannah Hernandez and Anna Fernandez rhyme and he calls both of them “a triple threat” because of their talents singing, dancing, and acting.

Reading the reviews: Producer Carmen Bernstein (Anna Fernandez) and lyricist Georgia Hendricks (Hannah Hernandez) react to critiques of their play, “Robbin’ Hood of the Old West.” The Enterprise — Marcello Iaia


“They’re equally talented,” he said. “They’re the kind of kids you give them an idea and they run with it; they’re eager to collaborate and create.”

Maycock also described sophomore Marissa Scotti as “a triple threat.” She plays the part of Niki Harris, “one of the ingénues…She’s supposed to be an understudy for the murdered woman. She’s a suspect,” said Maycock.

He went on about Scotti, “Sometimes it sounds like she could be singing opera. Sometimes it seems like she could be a Disney princess with a sweet lilt to her voice.”

Another standout is senior Shane Walsh playing the part of Aaron Fox, who writes the music for the show. “Shane is a very talented musician, just a natural,” said Maycock. “He sits at the piano and plays popular songs and old songs. A remarkable tenor, he will melt hearts.”

Keeping the bar high

Something that surprised Maycock about “Curtains” is the prominence of the ensemble, 30 players strong.

“The ensemble is in the show more than any I’ve worked on,” he said. “This isn’t a show where you’d say, ‘I’m just in the chorus.’”

Still, the overall cast is not as big as “in the old days, when we had 50 people,” said Mayock. He called the declining interest in theater “a little disappointing” and noted it is widespread. “If it was just Guilderland, I could talk to other schools,” he said about solving the problem.

“We’re not getting the kids who don’t have their thumb on the pulse of the theater,” he said. “We don’t get a lot of those kids anymore who are taking a chance.”

He went on, “We did cast a lot of ninth-graders…They’re really pulling together,” Maycock said of the cast. “We try to keep the bar high.”

Maycock recommends “Curtains” for anyone “old enough to watch a TV crime show.” While the on-stage play is not bloody, he said, “We want to make people feel a little uneasy, that nothing is safe…Lieutenant Cioffi says, let’s forget murder and focus on the closing number.”

Maycock notes his preschool nephew will be attending the show. Maycock was prepared to tell the boy’s mother when to get up and leave the theater to miss scary parts but she said of her young son, “He likes that it’s pretend.”


“Curtains” plays on the Guilderland High School stage today, March 12; Friday, March 13; and Saturday, March 14, at 7 p.m. On Sunday, March 15, there’s a 2 p.m. matinee. The school is located at 8 School Road in Guilderland Center. Tickets, for sale at the door, cost $5, $7, or $10 with the better seats costing more. The box office opens at 6:30 p.m.

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