MUSCATINE — With cold weather still hitting Muscatine, Rene Mauck, theater director at Muscatine High School already has her eyes on the spring play.
The fall play is already in the rearview mirror and Mauck has no illusions about how much work the musical will demand of her, her team and her cast.
“It takes way more time — all the music, dancing, choreography," Mauck said. "I have a lot of people doing a lot of things for me. When I’m doing a play, I don’t have a lot of information to disseminate to a lot of different people. But for the musical — the musical was already picked a month ago. We’ve already spent a lot time preparing.”
The show Mauck picked, "Curtains," is billed as a murder mystery-musical hybrid. In the story Jessica Cranshaw — a singer of questionable pitch, an actress of questionable talent and somehow the lead of a camp-ridden show called "Robbin’ Hood of the Old West," is found dead backstage. A detective is called in to nab the culprit, but as it's revealed, this inspector may be more interested in the lights of the stage than that of the interrogation room.
Mauck explained that she first ran into the play in 2008 and decided that she wanted the school to give it a shot.
“I’ve wanted to do it for a long time,” Mauck said. “It’s just now the right time. There are several I looked at and considered, but I like ('Curtains') for this group of kids.”
In the past, the school has done shows such as "Thoroughly Modern Millie," productions Mack described as “book and score” or traditional musicals. Though it flirts with these traditions, "Curtains’" play-within-a-play structure gives it plenty of room to blur these conventions.
“It’s got a really great score. It’s fun. A show within a show,” Mauck said. “It’s kind of got all the spoofs of theater you would want in there. It’s just a funny premise.”
When deciding which script to pick, Mauck explained that along with thinking about the kinds of talent she is working with, there is a need for ensemble casts. And "Curtains" delivers. She said that last week’s tryouts yielded 40 actresses and actors.
She explained that though it is important to involve as many students as possible, that large of a number can get a little overwhelming.
“We had as many as 45 on stage one time,” Mauck said. “Now that was getting a little crowded.”
She said that though "Curtains" does not bear the hype of musicals like "Hamilton" and "Passing Strange," exposing Muscatine audiences to productions they may not get to see otherwise is an important part of their work.
“People probably won’t have heard of it,” Mauck said. “It seems to me that the general trend is that people aren’t as aware of newer stuff on Broadway, unless it is a sensational thing like Hamilton. But there are hundreds and hundreds of musicals in between.”
With the production set to begin in April, Mauck is ready to prepare a performance that will fill some seats.
“The kids are always talented,” Mauck said. “And I think people need to come out because the school works hard to pick a show the audience is going to enjoy.”