On Stage: Curtains

Multiple murders, a theatre-loving detective, romance and plenty of laughs are just some of the delights on offer in the musical Curtains.

The cast of Curtains

The cast of the musical Curtains on at Melbourne’s State Theatre.

Playing at Melbourne’s State Theatre, the show also provides the chance to see some of Australia’s best known and most talented stage actors in action.

Lucy Maunder and Jared Bryan

Lucy Maunder and Jared Bryan

Curtains is set in Boston in 1957. It’s the opening night of the musical Robbin’ Hood of the Old West. The producers, cast and crew have high hopes of getting the show to Broadway. But it’s a terrible show and the lead actress (Nicki Wendt) is mysteriously slain at the curtain call.

Everyone is a suspect including the producer (Melissa Langton), her two-timing husband (John Wood), the composer (Alex Rathgeber), his ex-wife and lyricist (Lucy Maunder), the British director (Colin Lane), the investor (Tony Rickards), the young understudy (Alinta Chidzey), the male lead (Jared Bryan), the aspiring actress (Zoe Coppinger) and the stage manager (Simon Maiden).

Tony Rickards, Alex Rathgeber, Lucy Maunder and Melissa Langton

Tony Rickards, Alex Rathgeber, Lucy Maunder and Melissa Langton

Enter Lieutenant Frank Cioffi (Simon Gleeson), a Boston detective and passionate amateur theatrical, who seems far more interested in solving the show’s faults, than in solving the crimes.  Of course, he eventually finds the killer, fixes the show and falls in love.

Curtains is the last show from the  musical team of John Kander and Fred Ebb whose other work includes Cabaret and Chicago. It opened on Broadway in 2007.

Simon Gleeson, Alex Rathgeber and Simon Maiden

Simon Gleeson, Alex Rathgeber and Simon Maiden

While the subject matter maybe at times rather gruesome – especially as the murder count rises – the dialogue and lyrics are such that there are many laugh-out-loud moments. These highlights well and truly outweigh the show’s few flat moments.

Given the reaction of some ‘show’ people around me on opening night, it would seem parts of life `behind the scenes’ were pretty spot on without, of course, the murders.

Without doubt, Simon Gleeson is the star of the show. His acting, singing and comic timing are perfect and he is an absolute joy to watch on stage.

Simon Gleeson and Alinta Chidzey

Simon Gleeson and Alinta Chidzey

At the same time all other members of the cast also give very strong performances. It’s one of those shows when there isn’t a weak link.

While the songs from Curtains aren’t well known, there are some delights including several large scale production numbers which poke fun at other Broadway shows. These songs are well supported by strong, at times brilliant, choreography. There are also several moving ballads and a few very funny songs. Standout numbers include The Woman’s Dead, What Kind of Man (which has stage critics in its sights) and In the Same Boat.

Zoe Coppinger and Melissa Langton

Zoe Coppinger and Melissa Langton

The opportunity to see a show that’s rarely performed enhanced by the performances of the cast and the many humorous scenes, ensures this murder mystery musical comedy is an entertaining theatrical experience.

Curtains is playing at Arts Centre Melbourne’s State Theatre until August 28.  Visit Arts Centre Melbourne or the Production Company websites for more information.

Photos: Christopher Parker.

Jenny Burns attended the opening night of Curtains as a guest of the Production Company.


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