CURTAINS has the legend ‘A Musical Whodunnit’ underscored on its title, which is an intriguing concept.
Although new to the UK, and touring now prior to a West End opening, it has been around in the USA since 2006 and has even won a treasured Tony on Broadway.
It is a musical in the old traditional sense of big cast, high kicking chorus, love interest, memorable numbers with dialogue in-between them as opposed to the modern all singing – little or no dialogue offerings.
The writer of the original book Peter Stone unfortunately died before it made the stage and Rupert Holmes took over and finished it. Two theatrical giants added the music and lyrics; John Kander and the late Fred Ebb. These two gave us both ‘Cabaret’ and ‘Chicago’ and musicals don’t come much bigger or better than those.
In fairness ‘Curtains’ isn’t quite in the same league as those two classics but it is funny, refreshingly dated in it’s style and has some jolly numbers.
The show opens on the first night at a Boston theatre where ‘Robbin’ Hood’ a Wild West musical version of Robin of Sherwood is just ending. The leading lady, film star Jessica Cranshaw (Nia Jermin) murders her part and then gets literally murdered in the curtain call by person or persons unknown.
Next morning, there is another assassination – this time of the show by the critics. Reading the reviews and sharing mutual depression we meet the song-writing duo Aaron Fox Andy Coxon) and Georgina Hendricks (Carley Stenson) along with the show’s producer Carmen Bernstein (Rebecca Lock) and her money man Oscar Shapiro (Martin Callaghan).
Enter Lieutenant Frank Cioffi played by the popular stand-up comedian Jason Manford who engages right from his first entrance. He develops the Cioffi character with more than a nod to the famous Peter Falk’s rain coated inspector Colombo..
He’s everybody’s friend, a cop with a heart as well as a sharp brain – but unlike Colombo, Cioffi is a keen amateur actor – and now he is an actor in Wonderland!
Cioffi confines cast and crew to the backstage of the theatre whilst he carries out his investigations and redirects the ‘Robbin’ Hood cast in their musical action.
There are more murders and attempted murders on the way to whodunit that of course I shall not give away in this review.
The humour is bawdy – the thin plot far-fetched but fun and there are plenty of exciting dance routines and witty lyrics in between the detection.
In addition to Manford who successfully makes the cross from stand-up to actor – Rebecca Lock is compelling and complete – both in song and acting.
My stand-out performance though is by Samuel Holmes as Director Christopher Belling – his delivery of acid sarcasm was perfect and left us begging for more.
There is also some delightful dancing and posing from Emma Cafrey as Bambi the producers daughter.
‘Curtains’ is a good nights entertainment and a big show that is still growing – I am sure by the time it hits the West End it will have shed ten minutes as it gathers pace.
Also like the Mel Brooks musical ‘The Producers’ It’s destined to be taken up by musical theatre companies all over the country when in time it gets an amateur release.
It’s a show that will send you home happy and whistling.
Curtains runs at the Alex until November 9.
Click here for tickets, times and more information.
Review by Euan Rose