Skip to main content Skip to footer site map

Review: CURTAINS, Wyndham's Theatre

Review: CURTAINS, Wyndham's Theatre

Review: CURTAINS, Wyndham's Theatre For those on stage, an opening night can be the stuff of nightmares. In Curtains - the acclaimed duo John Kander and Fred Ebb's 2006 musical - the nightmare turns real when a lead actor gets murdered right after curtain call. So begins a comedic, entertaining whodunit that is chock-full of showbiz intrigue and backstage drama.

Set in 1959, Curtains centres on a company of theatre-makers in Boston who have just opened a Western-style musical called Robin Hood. All they want is to move the show to Broadway, but when scathing reviews get compounded by the death of their talentless, unpopular lead, the cast and crew are thrown into mayhem. Enter Lieutenant Frank Cioffi, a wannabe actor who sets out to solve the crime by quarantining everyone in the theatre. As the body count increases, and Robin Hood gets revised with Frank's feedback, members of the company start to reveal their true colours in all their vivacity.

Based on Peter Stone's original book and concept, Rupert Holmes' book makes its way through this satisfying murder mystery primarily through engaging characterisations. Curtains does not shy away from trafficking in familiar stereotypes about theatre people - the profit-driven producer, the high-maintenance director, the aspiring understudy, and so on. But these seemingly simple renderings end up adding much-needed thrust to a show that is relatively thin in its plot.

Paul Foster directs a strong cast with a fine sense of balanced exaggeration. Jason Manford modulates his unfazed Lieutenant Frank with brilliant asides that betray his passion for the stage. Rebecca Lock's Carmen is an elusively fiery, pun-loving producer, whose brazen confessions about her job in the second act's "It's a Business" are among the highlights of the evening.

Samuel Holmes is pitch-perfect as the histrionic director Christopher: his condescending one-liners about the whole debacle - both criminal and theatrical - elicit the loudest laughter from the audience. There are equally impressive performances from other members of the cast, including Carley Stenson, Emma Caffrey and Alan Burkitt - the latter responsible for some of the best dancing in the production.

David Woodhead's bare and flexible set design alternately evokes a stage and backstage, complete with iconic brick walls and rigging equipment. Tim Mitchell's intermittently flashy lighting and Gabriella Slade's eclectic costumes help accentuate the many scenes from Robin Hood that are interspersed in the musical proper. Though these nested scenes allow Alistair David's nifty choreography to shine, they do little to propel the main story.

So, while Curtains boasts a fair share of puckish, amusing musical numbers, it suffers from a few extended episodes where things get meandering and monotonous. Its three-hour runtime, in other words, is a bit bloated. All the same, this is a mirthful production whose sardonic, exposing gaze upon the theatre reminds one of such beloved works as Noises Off and The Play That Goes Wrong. I must admit that I enjoyed it the most whenever it threw shade on critics, who - as it turns out - "make a living by killing other people's dreams"!

Curtains at Wyndham's Theatre until 11 January, 2020

Photo credit: Richard Davenport

The National Lotterys Big Night Of Musicals Returns to Manchester Next Month Photo
After the huge success of its first musicals extravaganza last year, on Monday 27th February The National Lottery is once again bringing together the biggest shows from the world of theatre for a spectacular celebration of musicals. 

Review: HAVE I NONE, Golden Goose Theatre Photo
Dystopian play, set 54 years in the future, raises questions about the direction of consumerism today

Review: FAMOUS PUPPET DEATH SCENES, Barbican Theatre Photo
Slashed, smashed, squished, shot, stabbed and splatted: these are only some of the ways that Canadian company The Old Trout Puppet Workshop kill off their creations in the pitch-black Famous Puppet Death Scenes, making its London premiere at The Barbican as part of this year's London International Mime Festival.

ROSE, Starring Maureen Lipman, to Receive West End Transfer Photo
Maureen Lipman is to return to the West End in Martin Sherman's Rose. Following successful runs at the Hope Mill Theatre in Manchester and London’s Park Theatre, the show will run at the Ambassador's Theatre for only 28 performances.

From This Author - Mert Dilek

Mert Dilek is a critic and dramaturg based in London and Cambridge. He is a Ph.D. candidate in English at the University of Cambridge, where he holds the Camilla Mash Studentship at Trinity Co... (read more about this author)

Review: THE DOCTOR, Duke of York's TheatreReview: THE DOCTOR, Duke of York's Theatre
October 9, 2022

There is a kettle on stage for much of Robert Icke’s The Doctor. It is one of the few props in this loose adaptation of Arthur Schnitzler’s 1912 play Professor Bernhardi, which was first staged at the Almeida Theatre in 2019 and now receives its delayed revival in the West End. And the kettle’s conspicuousness is not for nothing: like the water boiling in it, Icke’s medical ethics drama gradually increases in heat and reaches a point of scorching intensity, leaving no one unscathed.

BWW Review: OKLAHOMA!, Young VicBWW Review: OKLAHOMA!, Young Vic
May 6, 2022

Forget the butter-churner and the lasso. This Oklahoma! has no need of them. Following a Broadway run and a U.S. tour, Daniel Fish and Jordan Fein’s Tony-winning production of the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical comes to London’s Young Vic like a hipster cowboy riding into town. In their audacious interpretation, the heart and soul of this American classic offer themselves up in a new, disturbing guise. For what comes into view at the end of its three hours is a vision of American communality forged not only in camaraderie, but also in conflict and blood.

BWW Review: THE BURNT CITY, One Cartridge PlaceBWW Review: THE BURNT CITY, One Cartridge Place
April 22, 2022

The Trojan War is the stuff of countless myths and later retellings. But probably none of them could make you get physically lost in the labyrinthine worlds of Hecuba's Troy and Agamemnon's Mycenae. For that, you would need to head to One Cartridge Place, where the renowned immersive theatre company Punchdrunk has opened the gates to The Burnt City, marking their long-awaited return to London after an eight-year hiatus.

BWW Review: TROUBLE IN MIND, National TheatreBWW Review: TROUBLE IN MIND, National Theatre
December 10, 2021

It's better late than never for a neglected classic to receive a major production. American dramatist Alice Childress's 1955 play Trouble in Mind is one such work with controversial beginnings and belated revivals. If Childress had agreed to revise her play in 1955-57 to make it more palatable for a predominantly white audience, then hers would have been the first play by a Black woman to be produced on Broadway.

BWW Review: HAMLET, Young VicBWW Review: HAMLET, Young Vic
October 5, 2021

At long last, the Young Vic has unveiled Cush Jumbo and Greg Hersov's hugely anticipated and much delayed collaboration on Hamlet. Jumbo, familiar to many from the US series The Good Fight, joins the ranks of female actors who have tackled the gargantuan role of the Danish Prince in Shakespeare's great tragedy. In Hersov's abstracted - and often unwieldy - Elsinore, she portrays with charming confidence an increasingly charismatic Hamlet whose masculine pronouns are retained, but whose gender identity is left richly ambiguous.