Curtains: A Musical Comedy is playing at the Norwich Theatre Royal from Tuesday the 11th to Saturday the 15th of February.
With the early song, ‘What Kind of Man?’ (a denunciation of critics featured in the show) I’ll take the hint, and keep this review nice. Luckily, that won’t be difficult. Do whatever you can to get down to see Curtains. Except, perhaps, commit murder.
The show surrounds a company of actors who discover a murderer must be amongst their midst when their leading lady dies on opening night.
Curtains is a classic whodunnit laced with humour. You may not think comedy and murder go well together, but Curtains balances tension and humour perfectly to heighten the impact of the other.
Led by happy-go-lucky musical fanatic Lieutenant Frank Cioffi (played excellently by Jason Manford), the story is grounded in easy family-friendly humour and romantic plots. You know, if you ignore the whole murder thing…
Jason Manford shines in his role. As the central figure, he holds the company together with ease. His relationship with Niki Harris (played by Leah Barbara West) adds heart to the story, yet is delicately tinged with enough suspicion that West comically places to keep the audience invested. Manford developed a relationship with the audience expertly, toeing the line between comedy and tension so well that often the audience would think a joke was coming, but instead finding another clue in the mystery.
However, for me, the standout came in Samuel Holmes as the blasé British director. His lines were always the ones to receive the biggest laughs, and in a musical chock-full of jokes, as Curtains was, Holmes ability to land every single one of the jokes written for him was a feat.
The greatest strength of the show came in its use of the ensemble. Backed against brilliantly detailed sets, decorated with flashy costumes, the numbers with close to the whole company were the most exciting. Large, loud songs like ‘Show People’, ‘He Did It’, ‘Thataway’ and ‘Kansasland’ are the ones that caught my interest most, and stuck in my head after the show. Dance – particularly in reference to the sequence performed by Emma Caffrey and Alan Burkitt in the number ‘Kansasland’ – was astonishing. The company moved and sang together to create a real spectacle.
At the denouement, I appreciated its ability to surprise me. Again, interweaving tension and comedy, they presented an awful moment, where the audience is aware that something is wrong, yet no one on stage seems to notice.
However, I found the end did not reach its ultimate potential for tension, as some of the characters storylines were wrapped up too soon, in particular, that of Georgia and Aaron, which I felt were noticeably missing towards the end of the show. But overall, Curtains was a delight.
For crime fans, let me recommend. You may be able to guess the murderer if you pay close attention…