Wyndham’s Theatre, London – until 11 January 2020
With a great cast and plenty of laugh-out-loud moments, this production of Kander and Ebb’s musical is a great cure for the winter blues.
Filled with lots of theatre inspired jokes as well as a murder mystery plot that keeps you guessing until the very ends, Curtains is a musical that is warmly entertaining throughout.
While perhaps it is not Kander and Ebb’s best known musical in contrast to Chicago and Cabaret, Curtains has its own unique charm about it that is endearing about it. The plot follows a production of Robbin’ Hood whose leading lady Jessica Cranshaw is murdered, following a performance of the Broadway destined production, with musical theatre fan Lieutenant Frank Cioffi being brought in to solve it.
With this production, it is clear that director Paul Foster has had a lot of fun in ensuring that the humour of this quirky musical reveals a show that was never meant to be taken seriously and to be just enjoyed for what it is. It is constantly playful and energetic – particularly when Cioffi switches his attention from the murder case to becoming increasingly more involved with the production itself.
While musically, perhaps the score is not Kander and Ebb’s strongest there is still plenty of fun to be had with songs such as ‘What Kind of Man?’ (taking a brilliant swipe at critics), ‘Show People’ (making fun of those who work in theatre) and the particularly hilarious ‘He Did it’ as suspicion begins to spread. It does have to be said that the score reflects the quirkiness of a musical whodunnit, that is accompanied perfectly with Alistair David’s stylish choreography and David Woodhead’s impressively numerous set designs.
The book by Rupert Holmes, based on the original book and concept by Peter Stone, is delightfully witty and is able to keep the audience on their toes about whether the production Robbin’ Hood will go ahead and who has committed the murder. This being said, there are some moments particularly at the beginning of the show which could be tightened up to ensure that the plot is focused on a little bit more.
The production also features a brilliant cast, all utilising their strengths as performers. Jason Manford as Cioffi is instantly likeable and warm in his performance, not only delivering his usual strong comic timing but also revealing a sharpness to the character who might like musical theatre but never neglects his duty. Elsewhere, Leah Barbara West offers a charming performance as Nikki, offering brilliantly natural chemistry with Manford’s character.
Meanwhile, Emma Caffrey as Bambi is wonderful to watch both as a character who wants her mother’s approval but also during a memorable dance sequence with Alan Burkitt’s Bobby during ‘Kansasland’ that highlights a strong partnership between them both. Andy Coxon as Aaron has plenty of charisma, making his rendition of ‘I Miss the Music’ a particular highlight of the show. But all of the cast are wonderfully talented – and it shows consistently throughout the production which is filled with joy.
It might not be the most sleek of productions, with the occasional moment in which the energy doesn’t always quite match the level of humour, but there is no denying that this is a show that is fun to watch unfold. If you are suffering from winter blues – then you need to see this.
By Emma Clarendon
Curtains continues to play at the Wyndham’s Theatre until the 11th January before continuing to tour.