Home Arts & Culture A metanarrative murder mystery musical

A metanarrative murder mystery musical

Courtesy Pen Tsin

Set in 1959 Boston, Massachusetts, Curtains is a musical that takes place on the opening night of a western musical by a fictitious production crew. 

The two-act show is a play within a play that delves into the struggles of show business, putting on a musical and the feelings and hardships that come with that process. 

“It’s a play within a play about us being in the play,” said producer, co-director and music director Kirk Elsmore of Starcatcher Productions. “It tells the audience what it means to put on a musical, and all the feelings, hardships, rewards and all the great emotions that come with that process.”

When one of the cast members, Jessica Cranshaw, played by Ainsley Meloche, is killed at the end of the show, it kicks off the plot of a murder mystery. Lieutenant Frank Cioffi, played by Mike Mastrononaco, appears on the scene to solve the crime and find the murderer before anyone else is killed.

The show is also directed by the current president of Turtle Island Theatre and professional wrestler Kyle Zachary. 

Curtains is the second co-production by the pair following up their previous show from 2022 Urinetown: The Musical.

Zachary was also interested in putting on the show because of his personal connection with some of the characters. As a Peacekeeper in Kahnawake, he feels connected closely with the character of Cioffi, who also happens to have a deep passion for musical theatre.

Theatre has been in Zachary’s life for over 30 years. He joined Turtle Island Theatre at the age of 10 when he enrolled in their after-school program.

Joining the group instilled within him strong beliefs and values in the community. 

These values of collectivity and collaboration also seep into Zachary’s directing style.

Elsmore said that the team felt extremely ambitious after the success of their last show and the team wanted to work on something bigger in scope.

The production for Curtains had a lot of growing pains as the team tripled in size from their last show, explained Elsmore. While Urinetown had a crew of around 30, Curtains had 56 people involved in its production. 

However, Elsmore believes the price of ambition has been worth it. “The process can be very difficult, especially with big schedules, and time commitments. The play is also very dance-heavy compared to last year and more musically challenging, but I think we’re having an amazing payoff. What I’ve been seeing, especially from last night, is that the show looks amazing.”

“Working with people who aren’t necessarily professionals who just love what they do, that’s honestly my favourite part. There’s less of a pressure to be perfect and we’re all here because we love what we do,” said Vanessa Marion, who plays the ensemble character Roberta Wooster. 

She got to work with actors from different backgrounds such as lawyers, police officers and even DJs – all of whom brought a different energy to their theatre performance, which gave the crew fresh ideas.

She found learning her role challenging because of the different accents – switching between a western and a 1950s Boston accent – while also having to learn her choreography. “We have to act like a character within a character,” said Marion. Playing two versions of her character also meant wearing different costumes. She enjoyed the dynamic aspect of wearing masculine clothes for her Boston look while also getting to present in more traditionally feminine outfits for the western version of Wooster.

Marion is also the co-prop designer for the play, which has been a learning curve for her as the play’s metanarrative elements meant that the team needed to have different prop designs for different time periods.

When he isn’t putting on shows, Zachary competes in professional wrestling matches. 

Both art forms influence his creative process and complement each other. 

“In professional wrestling, there’s a certain amount of performance that goes into it. You have to tell a story, you have to portray certain things, you have to sell certain things to your audience,” he said. “It’s fair to say that all professional wrestlers are just buff theatre kids.

“Acting has always been part of who I am.”

This article was originally published in print on Friday, August 25, in issue 32.34 of The Eastern Door.

Previous articleConvicted pedophile removed from community
Next articleKahnawa’kehró:non shine at box nationals