Theatre Review: CURTAINS – Palace Theatre, Manchester


The cast of CURTAINS THE MUSICAL. Photo Credit: Richard Davenport

Poking fun out of the purest love, CURTAINS is a heartfelt celebration of the romance of musicals

3.5 out of 5 stars

It’s fair to say that the road to Broadway for CURTAINS THE MUSICAL has been nearly as fraught as that of “Robbin’ Hood”. The show’s original book writer Peter Stone and lyricist Fred Ebb both died before the musical was completed and when the Tony award-winning musical finally headed to Broadway in 2007, it ran for a brief but respectable run of 511 performances. Thankfully, there is plenty of life in this musical whodunnit as demonstrated by a new production opening at Manchester’s Palace Theatre this week before heading out on a UK tour.

Best described as a musical within a musical, CURTAINS follows local detective and musical fanatic Frank Cioffi who has been called in to investigate the mysterious murder of Broadway star Jessica Cranshaw. Cranshaw was murdered on stage on opening night of new Broadway-bound musical Robbin Hood and now, the entire cast and crew are under suspicion. 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.

Samuel Holmes as Christopher Belling' and cast of CURTAINS

Samuel Holmes as Christopher Belling’ and cast of CURTAINS. Photo Credit: Richard Davenport

As you can guess by the synopsis, CURTAINS is a screwball comedy in every sense of the word. The plot is farcical, the script is full of cheesy puns and the characters are caricatures. Yet, for all its silliness, there is also an innate love and appreciation for the musicals it satirizes.

Paying homage to musicals like OKLAHOMA!, ANNIE GET YOUR GUN and 42ND STREET, Director Paul Foster makes good use of David Woodhead’s set and Alistair David’s intricate choreography to deliver a visually impressive production. But it is the humour that is kept front and centre here, this enjoyable romp keeping you entertained with its neat one-liners, likeable characters and plot red herrings.

Jason Manford delivers a sincere and engaging performance as Lieutenant Frank Cioffi, once again proving that he is not only a gifted singer but is also light on his feet. Carley Stenson shines as Georgia Hendriks while Samuel Holmes comes close to stealing the show as camp Director Christopher Belling. Ore Oduba also boasts plenty of charm and charisma as composer Aaron Fox, although his vocal performance isn’t quite as strong as the rest of the cast.

The cast of CURTAINS THE MUSICAL. Photo Credit: Richard Davenport

The cast of CURTAINS THE MUSICAL. Photo Credit: Richard Davenport

Shame then that John Kander and Fred Ebb’s score – the composers of legendary musicals CABARET and CHICAGO – just isn’t memorable enough. Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of likeable numbers here, THINKING OF HIM and A TOUGH ACT TO FOLLOW particularly standing out, but overall the melodies aren’t particularly rousing and feel a little repetitive at times.

After an intriguing start to the show, the second act also just doesn’t live up to the first. You get the feeling that some sequences have just been added purely to fill time and a few of the jokes, particularly in the hostage sequence, fall inordinately flat.

That said, there’s plenty to like here and with a bit of tightening up CURTAINS has the potential to truly stand out. Poking fun out of the purest love, this is a gorgeous, heartfelt celebration of the romance of musicals with comedy to boot – what more could you possibly want?

CURTAINS runs at the Palace Theatre, Manchester until 12 Oct 2019