REVIEW: CURTAINS (Wyndham’s Theatre) ★★★

With songs written by Kander and Ebb, the duo behind Cabaret and Chicago, one could be forgiven for assuming that Curtains would follow in the success of its predecessors. Sadly, it seems this musical whodunnit, although enjoyable, seems to just miss the mark.

The audience are told the story of a musical which has just opened in Boston ahead of attempting to transfer to Broadway, with backstage and onstage action used to move the plot ahead. The show opens with the final scene of Robbin Hood, a musical within a musical, and the leading lady collapsing on stage. It soon turns out that she was in fact murdered and everyone in the cast and crew is a suspect. It is at this point that the audience is then introduced to the officer investigating the murder, Lieutenant Frank Cioffi, played by Jason Manford, who also happens to be a musical theatre enthusiast. Mayhem, misunderstandings and music ensues as Lieutenant Cioffi tries to solve the case, while also fixing the problems of the musical to help it transfer to Broadway.

This show is undeniably funny. There are plenty of ‘in’ jokes for those who are involved in the musical theatre community, including several aimed at reviewers which gained some good laughs on press night. The comic timing and delivery of the cast are also key in this show, with Samuel Holmes’ probably getting the most laughs throughout the night. He plays the role of Robbin Hood’s jaded director to absolute perfection. Emma Caffrey and Alan Burkitt also stand out as being very talented dancers; with Caffrey playing Bambi, the chorus girl who is desperate to be noticed, and Burkitt playing Robbin Hood’s leading man and choreographer. Jason Manford is also very impressive in the role of Lieutenant Cioffi, proving that he is as good a singer as he is a comedian.

The show’s downfall comes in the pacing, at times becoming quite slow, particularly towards the end when it starts to become a bit of a slog towards the reveal of the murderer. While there are some good songs in the show, several are not particularly memorable and seem out of place. The cast are certainly talented and the songs do allow cast members to showcase their talents; Carley Stenson gets to show off her singing and dancing possibly more than the other leads, but the songs overall are not as good as those in other Kander and Ebb musicals.

David Woodhead’s set is simple but effective, there is some fantastic choreography and the cast members are all great. All the elements are there for this show to be great, but the book and music just don’t deliver. It’s a decent show, just not an especially memorable one.

Reviewed by Stephanie Mansell
Photo: Richard Davenport

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