Theatre Review: Curtains - Landor Theatre ✭✭✭

Landor Theatre 

30th July 2012 - Curtains had a somewhat tortured genesis and ironically, for a musical murder mystery, involved the deaths of two of the original creative team. No suggestion of foul play as far as we know….

However the resulting work is a slightly uneasy mix of Agatha Christie and the classic Broadway “theatre” musical (Think “Kiss me Kate” with added homicide). The basic premise of an onstage murder investigated by a hard boiled Boston detective who just happens to be a musical theatre nut is potentially amusing but the book is bogged down by an over-elaborate storyline and a vast cast of characters (Necessitating the game Landor cast in some pretty canny doubling). Somehow the work adds up to a good deal less than the sum of its parts - Certainly it’s a very long way from the black diamond sharpness of Kander and Ebb’s masterpieces “Cabaret” and “Chicago”. While those works celebrate dark amorality and cynicism “Curtains”, despite a high body count, ends up as a rather sentimental love letter to musical theatre. 

Photo by Francis Loney
Robert McWhir’s production plays it as straight as possible but despite some clever moments there is no disguising the scenic and spatial compromises necessary on the tiny Landor stage. Robbie O’Reilly’s choreography was determined to give value for money and involved full on company dance numbers. These mainly worked very well although I was extremely grateful not to be sitting in the front row! The musical arrangements for a five piece band were very successful and pitched exactly right for the venue, managing to sound lush but never overwhelming the cast.

Jeremy Legat played Lt Frank Cioffi managing to escape the long shadow cast by the role’s creator, David Hyde Pierce. He has a nice line in self-deprecation but he could perhaps play up the more hard boiled aspects of the character. Nevertheless he was a strong centre to a large cast. Cioffi is really the only character who steps beyond the standard issue musical theatre characters but the show was very nearly stolen by Bryan Kennedy’s hilarious Christopher Belling. Belling, the absurdly self-centred, acerbic British director gets most of the script’s best lines and leads one of the strongest (and most typically Kander and Ebb) numbers “The Woman’s dead”. Kennedy managed to be both extremely funny while always remaining believable. 

Photo by Francis Loney
Fiona O’Carroll and Leo Andrew manage to make something rather touching out of the underwritten estranged-but-still-in-love authors of the musical within a musical. O’Carroll could afford to hit the big moments a touch more when Georgia takes over as the lead and grows in confidence but Andrew makes his big number “I miss the music” a genuinely moving moment.

Thomas Sutcliffe is a dashing Bobby Pepper but, given the quality of his singing voice, it was regrettable that his character had no big solo numbers. He did get one dazzling dance number in Act 2 in which he managed to evoke the great Broadway hoofers despite the tiny stage. I look forward to seeing him in bigger roles soon.

The rest of the cast all acquitted themselves well and mention must be made of the very hardworking ensemble who were rarely away from the stage for more than a few minutes at a time.

“Curtains” may remain a curate’s egg but it is definitely worth catching.

3 out of 5 stars ✭✭✭

Review by Sebastian Petit


book by Rupert Holmes
lyrics by Fred Ebb, and music by John Kander
with additional lyrics by Kander and Holmes

Based on the original book and concept by Peter Stone

Choreographer ROBBIE O’REILLY
Musical Supervisor IAIN VINCE GATT

Landor Theatre
70 Landor Road

Box Office: 020 7737 7276

Nearest Tube & Rail:
Clapham North (Northern Line)
Clapham High Street (overground)

Wednesday 25 July – Saturday 1 September

Tuesday – Thursday & Saturday at 7.30pm
All Friday shows at 7.00pm

Saturday & Sunday matinees at 3.00pm

no performance on Friday 27th July

Press night - Monday 30 July at 7.30pm

Tickets: £20.00 (£18.00 concessions)