Touring – reviewed at Darlington Hippodrome
One of the newer and lesser known Kander and Ebb productions, Curtains has played Darlington as part of its UK tour – with a Christmas residency announced for the Wyndham’s Theatre in London’s West End. An absolute delight of a show, Curtains is good old-fashioned entertainment at its best.
Based on the original book and concept of the same name by Peter Stone, the musical is a send-up of backstage murder mystery plots. Set in 1959 Boston – it follows the fallout when Jessica Cranshaw, the incredibly untalented star of Robbin’ Hood of the Old West is murdered during her opening night curtain call. It is up to Lt. Frank Cioffi, a police detective who moonlights as a musical theatre fan to save the show, solve the case
Jason Manford is fabulous as Lt. Cioffi, not only solving the murders but reworking and directing Robbin’ Hood too. Manford maybe the “star” of the show but it is very much an ensemble piece and whilst he can sing and dance with the rest of them he doesn’t outshine anyone.
Carmen Bernstein (Rebecca Lock) commands the stage with her incredible voice, her solo ‘It’s a Business’ and she has some fabulous put-downs for her husband Oscar (Martin Callaghan), daughter Bambi (Emma Caffrey) and employees. Samuel Holmes is excellent as director Christopher Belling. His upper-class British accent hides the wonderful sarcasm that drips from his mouth like diamonds. It’s just a shame he doesn’t get a solo, although he has some fabulously funny moments – like when he accidentally admits to being the murderer because he likes to take credit for everything.
Song-writing duo Georgia Hendricks (Carley Stenson) and Aaron Fox (Andy Coxon) are so sweet as a divorced couple thrown back together again. Both still in love with the other but too scared to let them know.
Leah Barbara West is Niki Harris, Cioffi’s love interest, who keeps finding clues to the murderer with the running gag that her finger prints are now on the evidence.
The live band (Alex Beetschen, Matthew Spalding, Katie Punter, Helen Blamey, Eikel Hernadez, Zeb Tonkin, Sam Ainslie, Nicholas Breakspear and Damien Fisher) are an integral part of the show, playing the fabulous score and moving on the plot of the play within a play. And Alistair Davids choreography is outstanding. I loved David Woodhead set – from the moment I entered the theatre I was instantly transported back to an age of limelight’s and plush red velvet curtains.
Full of red herrings, marvellous music, divine dancing, stunning singing and laugh out loud funny, Curtains is a not just a musical whodunit it’s one of the best nights out I’ve had in a long time. And while they may hate the critics in What Kind of Man? This woman loved the show – long may it continue