Written by the team that brought you Cabaret and Chicago, Kander and Ebb’s rarely seen musical murder mystery Curtains is a sparkling little gem of a show.
Unlike its illustrious stablemates, Curtains doesn’t have the darkness and decadence of these two musical theatre masterpieces, but what it does have is a whole load of heart and so much going for it that the two hour forty minute running time flies past in the blink of an eye. Helped of course, by the supremely talented cast in Runway Theatre Company’s production.
It’s 1959, Boston, backstage at Robbin’ Hood of the Old West, a would-be Broadway blockbuster were it not for the dramatically, vocally and terpsichorally challenged leading lady, Jessica Cranshaw. Collective sighs of relief abound when she’s murdered during the opening night curtain call, but with so many suspects the crime looks impossible to solve. Into the fray comes community theatre veteran and police lieutenant Frank Cioffi. Believing the perpetrator to still be in the theatre, he commandeers the building and sets about finding the culprit while offering a few words of wisdom on how to turn this theatrical turkey into a sure-fire hit.
Referencing a raft of shows from the Golden Age of Musicals; with Fred and Ginger dance numbers, nods to Oklahoma and Annie Get Your Gun, heck there’s even a showboat onstage at the end, this is a hark back to another era, where plucky showgirls get their big break, tough showbiz mommas get things done and true love always finds a way.
There are some fine tunes too, Show People, Coffee Shop Nights and I Miss the Music in particular stand out and there’s a script packed full of witty one-liners (best delivered by Will Pollock as English luvvie theatre director Christopher Belling), all adding up to a thoroughly satisfying night at the theatre.
The cast are, as always from Runway, top-notch. Brendan Lynch’s Lieutenant Cioffi has the perfect mix of wide-eyed wonder at this crazy showbiz world he so longs to be part of, and eagle-eyed detective out to get his man (or woman). Lynch is the personification of a triple threat and rises to the demands of the role with ease. He is more than ably assisted by his fellow cast members, the aforementioned Pollock is a shining star and his razor sharp delivery of the pithy barbs, hits the mark every time, Aileen Johnston delivers a great big Ethel Merman-esque turn as producer Carmen Bernstein and Holly Steel should be applauded for pitching her chorus girl with ambitions of bigger things, Bambi, just perfectly, a role it would have been so easy to over-play.
This is all you could want from a musical: the big tunes, the big laughs, the fabulous production numbers and the great cast all add up to a fabulous night’s entertainment. If you want a perfect piece of escapist fun, then look no further.
Curtains runs until Saturday 14 May at Eastwood Park Theatre.