The Mousetrap meets A Chorus Line in this thrilling musical whodunnit. Curtains puts a comedic spin on the classic murder mystery story, complete with star-studded cast and award-winning musical score. The story unfolds in a crime novel-like fashion, beginning with the fall of Robin Hood’s curtain, as our curtain rises. It’s 1959, and on the opening night of a new Broadway-bound musical, leading lady Jess Cranshaw is murdered during the curtain call. But who did it? Cue DI Frank Cioffi, played by Jason Manford (The Producers; Guys and Dolls), orders the theatre into lock-down as he begins to solve the mystery.
This two-and-a-half-hour production is witty and face paced, as one by one we are introduced to members of the company – all suspects of the murder. The book by Rupert Holmes presents us with extremely well-defined characters – including the pompous director, matriarch producer and wannabe understudy. Though distinct in personality, the thespians are identically ostentatious in their attempts to clear their name of suspicion. But it is in act two that Cioffi properly begins his investigation, and with so many possibilities to choose from across the 20 person-large cast, the audience are left guessing whodunnit right until the very end.
The music and lyrics for Curtains come from the same men behind Chicago and Cabaret, John Kander and Fred Ebb. The big numbers in this show lift the storyline and make for great comic opportunities – such as a hilarious musical sketch at the beginning of act two, called He Did It. The songs are original and rich in contrast, from those performed as part of the Robin Hood production, which could have easily been mistaken for numbers in Oklahoma; to those serving the development of the plot. The showtunes are accompanied by sensational dance numbers that wouldn’t look out of place on Broadway, courtesy of choreographer Alistair David. Rebecca Lock (Heathers; Miss Me Kate) gives a faultless performance as fiery Carmen Bernstein; opposite Strictly Come Dancing favourite Ore Oduba playing the composer, who more than proves his place in the cast, despite only making his theatrical debut last year.
Unsurprisingly the set for Curtains is a stage within a stage, which constantly alternates our perspective from being an audience at Robin Hood, and then capturing glimpses of life behind the curtain, as though we are another member of the company. This show is technically impressive, from the mystical lighting design by Tim Mitchell to the special effects that bring us several on-stage deaths.
Audiences can expect endless laughs in Curtains, as we experience the farcicality of the developing carnage. Manford’s Cioffi is both hilarious and loveable, seeming to spend as much time exploring his own love of theatre as he does trying to identify the killer. But the pressure is on in his process of elimination as the company prepares to reopen their show with a new leading lady. Curtains continues its UK tour through to next year so get your tickets now to see who survives to perform another night!
Featured Image: Richard Davenport.