Making its European debut at the Landor Theatre, Kander and Ebb’s last work, Curtains, sets the making of a new musical – a Wild West version of Robin Hood – alongside a comedy murder mystery. It’s a bizarrely inspired combination, executed with a wicked sense of humour.
At the play-within-a-play’s opening night it isn’t just the critics’ knives that are out; a talentless star becomes a showstopper of a special kind when she’s murdered on stage. Behind the scenes is a hive of viciousness and villainy that proves plenty of suspects. Enter our detective, who just happens to be a huge theatre fan.
Jeremy Legat excels in the role of Lieutenant Cioffi, solving the crime in style and inspiring the cast to produce a better show at the same time. Bryan Kennedy, who plays an imperious director, delivers every line in superbly arch fashion and the show’s apparently ruthless producer, played by Buster Skeggs, joins the fray in equally high camp fashion.
Curtains isn’t without its problems. Even for a musical, there’s a touch too much pastiche, the piece loses some steam toward the end and, despite tremendous performances from Leo Andrew and Fiona O’Carroll trying to save their marriage and the show, heartfelt moments seem out of place. But these faults are quickly forgotten in director Robert McWhir’s superb production – injecting humour into every scene, he lifts the piece magnificently.
With designer Martin Thomas’s near miraculous use of the space, Curtains feels very much the big Broadway show. As the cast sing of ‘wide open spaces’ that couldn’t be further from the intimate setting of the Landor, they show off Robbie O’Reilly’s terrific choreography perfectly. No question that this playful whodunit is a hit.
Until 1 September 2012
Photo by Francis Loney
Written 31 July 2012 for The London Magazine