Wyndham’s Theatre, London – until 11 January 2020
American songwriters Kander and Ebb are probably best-known for creating the smash-hit musicals Chicago and Cabaret. But now another of the duo’s creations Curtains, currently in the middle of a UK tour, steps into the limelight in London’s West End replacing The Man In The White Suit at the Wyndham’s Theatre until early January.
With a book by Rupert Holmes (based on an original book and concept by Peter Stone), Curtains is a musical comedy whodunnit which initially opened on Broadway two years after the death of Fred Ebb. When musical actress Jessica Cranshaw, star of Robin Hood and the weakest link in a Boston theatre company, is murdered during the curtain call on opening night, her fellow cast mates and crew are all put under the spotlight as suspects.
Enter stage left Lieutenant Frank Cioffi (Jason Manford), who puts the theatre on lockdown while he interviews those under suspicion. A keen musical theatre fan himself, Cioffi soon gets wrapped up in Robin Hood and sets about trying to save the show whilst catching a killer.
Boasting a unique concept, Curtains is a classic murder mystery which at the same time provides the audience with an amusing look behind of the scenes of a critically-panned musical. With a show-within-a-show concept, plenty of clever twists and turns and humour throughout, Curtains is an enjoyable production sure to be a hit with fans of musical theatre. The soundtrack is pleasing, with toe-tapping numbers like ‘Show People’ alongside more amusing tunes such as ‘The Woman’s Dead’ and ‘What Kind of Man?’ (the latter of which takes aim at critics, and went down particularly well on press night).
Unlike Kander and Ebb’s more renowned productions, the songs here sadly aren’t particularly memorable but they’re all performed well by the brilliant cast. The ensemble numbers however highlight both the show and the company’s talent, providing a visual treat for the audience thanks to Alistair David’s spectacular choreography and Paul Foster’s clever direction. The beauty of Curtains is that it doesn’t take itself too seriously, packed full of clichés, puns and delightful digs at critics.
Jason Manford proves likeable and funny as the overly enthusiastic yet charming detective. Carly Stenson shines as Georgia Hendricks, one of the songwriters behind Robin Hood, while Andy Coxon does an equally great job as her ex Aaron, his rendition of ‘I Miss the Music’ one of the more touching moments of the show. Rebecca Lock is fantastic as the tough-edged producer Carmen and it is she and Samuel Holmes who very nearly steal the show. Holmes gets most of the best lines in his role as British director Christopher, delivering his many one-liners with a delightful dose of witty acerbic sarcasm.
Curtains makes for a warm and entertaining musical sure to leave you with a smile on your face and a spring in your step. With dazzling choreography, slick humour and top-notch performances it is well worth seeing this Christmas.