Taking an unscheduled break from a UK tour, the least-known of Kander and Ebb’s “big C” musicals makes a quick, unscheduled stop in the West End until 11 January.
On the surface it is a murder mystery musical, but the big song and dance numbers are what gives Curtains a sense of sparkle. Decidedly and unapologetically old-fashioned, this show may not quite be a “musical Noises Off“, but we are treated to scenes both in front of the footlights and backstage.
Film star Jessica has been contracted to play Maid Marian in a version of “Robbin’ Hood” which achieves terrible reviews on the night she collapses and dies. Inspector Cioffi (Jason Manford) is soon on the case, with numerous suspects from the composer, producer and stage manager to leading man, understudy and chorus performers.
Curtains retains a sense of fun with tongue-in-cheek numbers about critics, show people, death, love, money and suspicion. Quick set changes allow a range of settings including one set way up in the flies, and even a love story is ushered in as hard-working Niki (Leah Barbara West) finds a kindred spirit in the amdram loving Cioffi.
With hardly a weak link in the cast, I particularly enjoyed Carley Stenson’s lyricist turned leading lady with her Ethel Merman vocal belt, and Rebecca Lock’s steely Carmen who seeks the next dollar and belittles daughter Bambi (a ditzy Emma Caffery).
At close to three hours this show’s length may seem self-indulgent, but it rarely drags and the score includes a few hummable gems. From a grand circle seat I could see most of the action, and enjoyed the scope of some big spectacle numbers.
Curtains is a welcome, if brief, addition to the theatrical landscape in the big spaces – Ore Oduba returns in the final week to replace Andy Coxon (marvellous as composer Aaron Fox) – and while not unmissable, it is certainly the type of show which keeps an audience happy and entertained in the time-honoured way best known to the business we call “show”.
The murder mystery? Not that important, although I didn’t guess the solution. Photos by The Other Richard.
LouReviews paid for a ticket to see Curtains.