David Elder in the Musical Mystery Curtains: Better Than Tennis

When David Elder was eight years-old, his father put a racquet in his hand. "I knew I was going to grow up and be Jimmy Connors," he says. He and his dad made the rounds of state competitions and as a freshman Elder was one of the top players on Sharpstown High School's boys varsity tennis team.

And then they moved to Santa Fe, Texas, where the coach told him: "David, I'll play with you but we don't have a tennis team and we only have one tennis court and it's behind the elementary school." Elder refocused. Fortunately, he'd also picked up a gift for singing from his mother, so he joined the school choir. He went on to the College of the Mainland and the University of Houston and his first professional job was at Galveston's Outdoor Amphitheatre.

Starting March 29, Elder -- now a New York City resident who has appeared on Broadway -- will be back home performing in Theatre Under the Stars' production of Curtains.

As the character Bobby Pepper (the same role he played on Broadway in a production that included David Hyde Pierce) Elder will be singing, acting and dancing, and he'll even throw in some of his tumbling skills. His parents, who still live in Santa Fe, will be there watching.

Curtains has a show within a show, Elder explained. As they're putting together a play, the leading actress is murdered and everyone ends up quarantined together. The show they're trying to put on is called Robbin' Hood of the Old West and as Bobby Pepper, Elder is both the choreographer of that show as well as the leading man.

David Elder and Kirsten Scott in the Pittsburgh CLO production of Curtains
David Elder and Kirsten Scott in the Pittsburgh CLO production of Curtains

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Two real life soap opera stars and former power couple from Guiding Light will be playing the lead roles in this production. Robert Newman (who played Joshua Lewis on the TV show which ended in 2009) plays Lieutenant Frank Cioffi and four-time Daytime Emmy winner Kim Zimmer plays Broadway producer Carmen Bernstein. Both have several theater credits as well.

Elder said when he heard someone was mounting another production of Curtains he reached out to them. He thinks the show is a good fit "for the sort of physical humor kind of guy that I am."

Before getting to New York, Elder was hired as "a singing tumbler" at Opryland USA in Nashville and after that worked the Miss America Pageant. Over the years he was taught how to dance and now is one of those rare triple threats in musical theater.

"The style of musical is so different these days. They belt and sing but really not many of them dance that well. I still think there's a huge place for the musicals which we used to love so much. I think that Curtains is a throwback to all that. It's the old school, set in the '50s. It's got a real clean-cut sort of aspect."

People should come see Curtains, Elder says, because "it's like a gem...a little gem of musical theater; there's all the classic big Broadway production numbers and it's hilarious. It's one of the funniest books that we have in musical theater. It's just a wonderful evening."

Curtains runs March 29 through April 10 at the Hobby Center. For ticket information go to www.tuts.com or call 713-558-8887 or in person at the Theatre Under the Stars box office, 800 Bagby.

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