Sunderland Empire, 21/01/2020
Just when you thought you’d heard it all, a murder mystery musical comedy starring Jason Manford in the lead role is touring the UK. Curtains, a musical from the creators of Cabaret and Chicago, tells the simple story of a murder mystery in a theatre where a company have just completed their opening night. Musical lover Lieutenant Frank Cioffi is called in to solve the crime and is tied up in the production as he works on the case. The show is embarking on it’s second leg of a UK tour with its first stop, Sunderland Empire. We were invited to the press night and after seeing glowing reviews from previous tour stops we expected great things.
Perhaps we had overhyped the show for ourselves, but we didn’t completely love it. There were standout performances and most jokes landed, but it felt like it was missing something.
As the show is introduced by a wonderful overture, it’s no mistaking that the score is created by John Kander as the sound of the orchestra is very reminiscent of Chicago – not that it’s a bad thing in the slightest, the music is sublime and creates a real classic musical theatre feel to the production. Alas, the lyrics of the songs don’t get stuck in your head, nor do the melodies like they do from Kander’s other successes.
Standout performances come from Jason Manford and Samuel Holmes as detective and director respectively. Manford is no stranger to musical theatre, previously appearing in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang as Caractacus Potts and The Producers as Leo Bloom in which we saw him. For those who aren’t aware of his talent, Manford is surprisingly good! His impressive vocal range is supported by strong acting, a convincing accent and great comedic timing (obviously) he is really becoming a tour de force of theatre who’s stage presence is infectious. Holmes is a flamboyant and dramatic director, who’s character has been created as a “stereotypical” camp British creative. His lines bring a lot of fun to the script, which when enhanced with a sharp wit and sarcasm give his performance a real edge.
While the jokes are fun, they do feel really safe. Pleasing the audience of a wide age range, it’s clear this musical has been created by a classic team. The punchlines build as they are revisited throughout the show; repeated mockery of their leading lady’s talent, jokes about the bad husband of the producer and Cioffi (Manford) getting caught up in the production rather than solving the crime all land well but don’t ever receive roaring laughter.
Act 1 feels a little muddled with no clues to the murder revealed whatsoever. This is rectified in the second half as it feels like the plot is being driven a bit more towards it’s conclusion. The show is held together by the large group numbers making great use of the sizeable cast in which the choreography of the ensemble stands out.
Curtains is an enjoyable show that will give you a good few laughs, keep you guessing and bring a fulfilling level of entertainment to a night out at the theatre. Don’t expect anything groundbreaking and you’ll have a pretty fun time!
Curtains UK tour is visiting the following venues:
Tue 21 – Sat 25 Jan 2020: SUNDERLAND Empire, https://www.atgtickets.com/shows/curtains/sunderland-empire/
Tue 28 Jan – Sat 1 Feb 2020: LIVERPOOL Empire Theatre, https://www.atgtickets.com/shows/curtains/liverpool-empire/
Tue 4 – Sat 8 Feb 2020: LLANDUDNO Venue Cymru, https://venuecymru.co.uk/curtains
Tue 11 – Sat 15 Feb 2020: NORWICH Norwich Theatre Royal, get your tickets here!
Tue 25 – Sat 29 Feb 2020: NORTHAMPTON Royal & Derngate, https://www.royalandderngate.co.uk/whats-on/curtains/
Tue 3 – Sat 7 Mar 2020: BLACKPOOL Winter Gardens Blackpool, https://www.wintergardensblackpool.co.uk/whats-on/curtains-a-musical-whodunnit
Tue 10 – Sat 14 Mar 2020: GLASGOW King’s Theatre, https://www.atgtickets.com/shows/curtains/kings-theatre/
Mon 16 – Sat 21 Mar 2020: LEICESTER Haymarket Theatre, https://www.haytheatre.com/whats-on/curtains
Tue 24 – Sat 28 Mar 2020: HIGH WYCOMBE Wycombe Swan, https://wycombeswan.co.uk/Online/tickets-Curtains-Jason-Manford-Wycombe-2020
Tue 31 Mar – Sat 4 Apr 2020: WOLVERHAMPTON Grand Theatre, https://www.grandtheatre.co.uk/whats-on/curtains/
Tue 7 – Sat 11 Apr 2020: SOUTHAMPTON Mayflower Theatre, https://www.mayflower.org.uk/whats-on/curtains-2020/