With the theatres closed, more and more is becoming available online, allowing theatre fans to get their fix from the comfort of their own homes. Recently, we were treated to an archive recording of Curtains, one of the many shows that had it’s tour cut short due to the shutdown. For a small ‘ticket’ price (going to Finance for Freelancers) we were able to enjoy this quirky show whilst following the social distancing rules and staying at home.
Billed as a musical mystery, Curtains is a back stage story, covering the events following the murder of the shows leading lady during the opening night curtain call. Lieutenant Frank Cioffi (Jason Mansford), a musical theatre loving police detective, is brought in to solve the mystery in time for the show to open on Broadway. With none of the cast or crew allowed to leave the theatre, it’s a race against time to catch the killer before they strike again. The show features many well developed and comedic characters, including over dramatic director Christopher (Samuel Holmes), leading man Bobby (Alan Burkett), lyricists Aaron Fox (Ore Oduba) and Georgia Hendricks (Carley Stenson) and producer Carmen (Rebecca Lock).
Curtains is a show inside a show, with Robin Hood being put on in Boston for an out of town run before Broadway, meaning that we see scenes from this show woven into the action of the main show. This allows us to see two halves of the characters, their on and off stage personas, which can be very contrasting in places. It also provides a nice dose of comedy as we see Cioffi’s passion for musical theatre sometimes overpowering his drive to solve the mystery as he becomes distracted in helping Aaron and Chris to put together the perfect musical number.
The cast is lead by Jason Mansford in the role of Lieutenant Frank Cioffi, and this is a role that allows him to both show off his singing talent and his natural flair for comedy. Frank is a likable character, clearly very good at his job and clearly a huge fan of the theatre. He has a charming relationship with ensemble member Niki Harris (Leah West), and some lovely musical moments especially in ‘Show People’ and ‘Coffee Shop Nights’. Ore Oduba impresses as the show’s lyricist Aaron Fox, giving the show an emotional depth in his number ‘I miss the music’. Carley Stenson plays lyricist turned leading lady Georgia Hendricks, plucked from the piano to the spotlight. A complicated character, who shies away from the attention even when numbers such as ‘Thataway’ prove that she was made for the stage.
Rebecca Lock gives a masterclass in comedic timing as producer Carmen, determined to keep the show running no matter what whilst her daughter Bambi (Emma Caffrey) is determined to show that she has the ability to be a leading lady. Samuel Holmes has the audience in stitches as Christopher, the larger than life director who has the uncanny ability to make it look like he’s the one coming up with all of the good ideas. We have the number ‘Kansaland’ to thank for allowing us to see Alan Burkitt showing off his incredible dancing skills as leading man Bobby.
The show boasts a rather large song list, and songs such as ‘Thataway’ and ‘Show People’ are the real stands out whilst reprises and different versions of the same song fill the second act as a little bit of a running joke. Whilst I liked the story (even if it was a bit predictable) and the cast were fantastic in their roles, I found the overall appearance of the show to be a little bit dull in terms of set and colour scheme. A lack of set leaves the show with a very bare stage, and the vast majority of the costumes are monotone and bland. Apart from the odd burst of red, there’s an awful lot of brown, black and grey in the costumes throughout. I know it’s the time period of the piece, and maybe I am used to musicals with a bit more colour, but I just found it all a bit drab.
To conclude, Curtains is a fun show that doesn’t take itself too seriously and provides a lovely couple of hours of escapism. It’s a real shame that the broadcast was blighted with technical difficulties, but nevertheless, it was enjoyable. Some of the songs may have been a tad repetitive and the colour scheme may have been a little bit dark for my taste, but that doesn’t take away from the talent of the cast and the overall likability of the show.