Curtains is a little known musical with a score by the much celebrated team of John Kander and Fred Ebb. Originally staged in Los Angeles in 2006, it transferred to Broadway after some changes, for a brief but respectable run of 511 performances.
Curtains is a “backstage murder mystery”. The original concept and script was developed by Peter Stone, but was ultimately finished by Rupert Holmes, after Stone’s death.
David Hyde-Pierce starred in the original production of Curtains, alongside Debra Monk, Karen Ziemba and Jason Danieley; he won Tony Award for his performance.
The 2016 season for the Production Company features Funny Girl, Curtains, and Dusty. It must be a difficult decision to settle on what shows to present. Full marks must be given for breathing life into this most worthwhile musical. It is the musical’s first major staging in Australia. Curtains is a delicious theatre indulgence.
Curtains is set in Boston, 1959. It’s the opening night of Robbin’ Hood of the Old West when suddenly at the curtain call, its supremely untalented leading lady is murdered onstage. The entire cast and crew are suspects. Enter Lieutenant Frank Cioffi, local detective and passionate amateur theatrical who unravels the mystery, fixes the show and falls in love with the ingénue, Miss Niki Harris. It is a classic backstage, showbiz story, with a who-dunnit thrown in.
The entire cast equipped themselves remarkably well considering the short rehearsal period and the considerable size of the undertaking. Roger Hodgman as director kept all the balls in the air and serves a simple but effective direction with the humour front and centre. The orchestra was tight under the baton of John Foreman, and the snappy arrangements never overpowered. Mr Foreman was making something of a theatrical debut as Sasha Iljinsky in his very cute cameo from the podium.
Simon Gleeson stars in Curtains as Lieutenant Frank Cioffi. His very appealing and articulate performance was sometimes overshadowed by his characterisation. He proved that, not only is he a gifted singer, but he can also be light on his feet. His classic ‘hollywood-style’ dance routine in A Tough Act To Follow with Alinta Chidzey was full of personality and class. The show features many such moments choreographed very effectively by Dana Jolly.
The real joy in attending Curtains at the sensational State Theatre in Melbourne is watching the ladies take the stage. Nicki Wendt, as the supremely un-talented Jessica Cranshaw, sets the comedy in motion with a wickedly funny turn in the opening of their Robbin Hood musical. Melissa Langton as Carmen Bernstein proves what a talented, versatile and funny actress she is. With her exciting singing voice, every word and inflection reached the back wall. She grabs the stage with What Kind Of Man? and whips the entire cast into a number that places her at the centre of this show. Lucy Maunder looked like she walked straight out of the period. As Georgia Hendricks she is a great asset to the show not just for her flawless singing.
From the moment Colin Lane enters the stage from the stalls, all bluster and noise, it is clear that he is out of his depth as the campy director Christopher Belling. In the right hands this would be a tremendous role to watch. Unfortunately, it was not just his accent that was confusing.
Music theatre is the more modern term used these days but Curtains is most certainly a musical comedy, in the very best sense of the words. The Production Company proved once again how well they showcase talent and present a variety of shows that people want to see, or otherwise, would not get the opportunity to see. Hearing the audience laugh out loud at all the fun and games, the very witty script, and the memorable score by Kander and Ebb would warm the heart of any theatre goer.