Kander and Ebb have created some of the most iconic musicals of the 20th century: Chicago, Cabaret… Curtains may not be as well known, or as serious, but it still has promise on the new UK tour, although it could do with some work on the direction.
It’s murder putting on a new musical – literally! Jessica Cranshaw, star of the new Broadway-bound musical Robbin Hood, has been murdered on stage on opening night! The entire cast and crew are suspects. Time to call in the local detective, Frank Cioffi, who just happens to be a huge musical theatre fan. With a nose for crime and an ear for music, Frank has his work cut out trying to find the killer whilst giving the show a lifeline.
This is a witty script, packed with jokes for the keen theatre fan as well as the occasional theatregoer. Despite this, the plot lacks a bit of pace, particularly in act one, and many gags seem to go unnoticed or don’t receive the roar of laughter they deserve. Many characters just aren’t big or bold enough to give this almost farcical musical the comedy value it needed. A tweak in the vision and direction would correct this.
However, that’s not to say the evening is devoid of laughter. It’s still a good comedy and it keeps you guessing. Not only that, the choreography shows some real imagination. Alistair David’s work is clever and inventive, with particular highlights being the complete version In the Same Boat. There are many great performances too, with Alan Burkitt in particular making the choreography soar. There’s great characterisation from Samuel Holmes (Christopher Belling) and Rebecca Lock (Carmen Bernstein) who bring most of the laughs throughout. Jason Manford is likeable as the detective/wannabe theatre creative trying to solve the case, but again could be more of a caricature to aid the comedy of the piece.
Although a bit lacklustre in places, this is still a fun night out, ideal for any fan of murder mystery or musical theatre. The murderer’s identity is well-hidden to the end and a few curve balls certainly throw you off the scent. It’s a great night out for all ages.
Curtains is at the Orchard Theatre, Dartford, until Saturday 30 November before hitting the West End over Christmas. Grab your tickets for Dartford here and for the West End from the show’s official website.
Photo credit: Richard Davenport