★★★★ | Curtains The Musical, Sheffield
On the opening night of a new musical the star of the Broadway-bound show is murdered as she takes (what turns out to be) her final bow. But the actress is not the only thing that dies on stage that night, as the show is an absolute stinker. Enter, stage left, Detective Frank Cioffi, whose keen detective skills are matched only by his love of musical theatre. With everyone in the cast and crew a suspect, can Coiffi catch the killer, get the girl and transform the musical into a Broadway smash?
Written in 2006 by Kander and Ebb, who are best known for Cabaret and Chicago, this musical has a beautifully old fashioned air to it, with a look, feel and sound of the classic musicals of Cole Porter and Irving Berlin. The show gently, but lovingly, ribs the genre with its tongue very firmly in its cheek, parodying Oklahoma!, the backstage relationships of 42nd Street and the on/off stage antics of Kiss Me, Kate. The songs are instantly catchy and warmly familiar on first listen, but retain the odd glimpse of Kander and Ebb’s trademark sound running through them. Throw into the mix a pastiche of Agatha Christie’s The Mousetrap, and you get to the heart of what this musical whodunnit is about.
TV’s Jason Manford is wonderfully affable as Detective Frank Cioffi and nestles neatly alongside the broadly talented cast, and Ore Oduba (Strictly Come Dancing winner) is good fun as the show’s songwriter and Emma Caffrey was an utter delight as the show’s wannabe starlet, Bambi. The static set provides a suitable backdrop to the backstage shenanigans, with the audience swiftly moving to the front of the curtain during the big rehearsal numbers using a directorial trick which works remarkably well.
Overall, Curtains has a healthy dose of subtle and gentile comedy, some cracking, foot tapping songs and the whole show is lovingly put together. It transpires to be a thoroughly pleasant and undemanding evening of old fashioned entertainment, which was incredibly enjoyable.