FORT SHAFTER, Hawaii - It was 30 minutes before show time on opening night, Feb. 26, at Richardson Theatre, here, and the clocked seemed to tick slower and slower.

Sgt. Thomas Johnson, Trial and Defense Service, 8th Special Troops Battalion, stood dressed in a tuxedo, with his hair slicked neatly back, make-up on, and ready for the show to begin.

Straightening his jacket and checking the time once again, Johnson said, "I'm ready. Let's get the show started."

Yet, seconds passed like minutes.

"I just want to get up there," said Johnson, nodding toward the stage. "We've been working all week for this day."

Johnson, along with an array of community members, practiced for weeks for the debut performance of the Broadway musical "Curtains."

The cast will bring song and dance to the stage in a total of seven performances.

Johnson is no stranger to the stage, recently performing in Diamond Head Theatre's production of "Les Miserables." He stated he has performed in more than 30 plays, mostly musicals, to showcase his singing and acting talents, including "Guys and Dolls," "The Magic Flute," "Die Fledermaus" and "The Merry Widow."

The performer got his start at the age of 21 and fell in love with the stage.

"I learn to adapt myself to the characters," said Johnson. "I really enjoy being on stage and performing for everyone."

The clock finally gave in, moving closer to show time, and Johnson disappeared behind the red curtain, preparing for his cue.

Simultaneously, the doors of the theater opened, and more than 300 family and community members poured in for the opening night performance of the famed musical.

"Curtains" is a parody of 1950s "whodunit" mystery theater. In "Curtains," a murder takes place at the Boston Colonial Theater in1959. The leading lady dies during her curtain call, and the performance suddenly turns into a musical within a musical. And with every good musical comes a love story - in this case, two.

Johnson, who plays the show's heartbroken composer, Aaron Fox, enters the stage during Scene 3 and joins his cast members in a gleeful musical number, "What Kind of Man." Over the next three hours, the plot unfolds as Johnson continues to sing and dance his way across the stage.

"I like being the person in the Army that opens people's eyes to this art form, this kind of music and performance," said Johnson.

The show keeps the audience guessing until the last minute. During opening night, laughter could be heard at all the right moments.

"We are a community theater, and it is about the community," said Vanita Rae Smith, chief of Army entertainment and producer of Army Community Theatre. "It's great to see the Soldiers and veterans together in the audience with people from all over the island."

Johnson agreed.

"Being able to perform like this is one of the reasons I defend my country," he said. "We have so many opportunities to express ourselves through music and performance, and a lot of other countries don't.

"We are lucky," added Johnson.

When asked if any opening night jitters crept in before the performance, Johnson smirked and replied, "I'm in the Army. I've been downrange ... this is nothing."

Army Community Theatre performs another 'first' with latest debut
The musical shows "Cabaret" and "Chicago" have lit up the stage and screen, both brilliant collaborations by composers John Kander and Fred Ebb. Now the third in a trilogy of "Cs" comes to local theater - the Tony-award winning show "Curtains."

"Curtains" closed on Broadway last summer, opening amateur rights to community theaters.

The Army Community Theatre, here, has spearheaded several "first" amateur productions at Richardson Theatre, most recently receiving the rights to debut "Curtains."

Along with production rights for the show came Andrew Rainbow, director of music and publication for Theatre Rights Worldwide.

After working with the show on Broadway, he came to Hawaii to collaborate with Army Community Theatre director and producer Vanita Rae Smith for the first community theater showing of the award-winning musical.

"With every show you see something different," said Rainbow. "The cast has captured the moments of this play beautifully and kept what the presentation is about, but made it their own.

"It's not a carbon copy," he continued, "but it is has the flavor."

Rainbow worked with Smith and the cast, as well as the orchestra the week prior to opening night.

"There has been a real sense of family working with this group," he said. "Everyone supports each other, and you know they are here for the love of the theater and the love of the script."

The written word of "Curtains" came to life as military and community members performed opening night, singing and dancing across the stage in a nearly flawless performance.

Rainbow sat in the audience the duration of the performance with a proud grin across his face.

"They did a wonderful job," said Rainbow. "They have worked so hard to get here."

"Curtains" was directed by Smith with choreography by Grace Bell Humerickhouse and musical direction by Peter Rucci.

Take a guess at "whodunit" at Richardson Theatre during "Curtains," Friday and Saturday nights through March 14. For more information, call 438-4480 or visit