Curtains The Musical Needs To Pull Itself Together

Curtains The Musical, Wyndham’s Theatre ★★★☆☆

By Johnny Fox Last edited 8 months ago

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Curtains The Musical Needs To Pull Itself Together Curtains The Musical, Wyndham’s Theatre 3
Photo: Richard Davenport

When Curtains opened on Broadway in 2008, David Hyde Pierce (the brother from Frasier who doesn’t ruin musicals at the Coliseum) played Lt Frank Cioffi, a theatre-struck bachelor Boston cop who solves the on-stage murder of a musical star while also ‘fixing’ the show with a light touch, an elegant singing voice and comic timing so sharp you could use it to shave cheese.

Photo: Richard Davenport

We could do with one in London. This production has been barrelling round the provinces for six months and fetched up at Wyndham's due to the premature demise of The Man in the White Suit.

Both the show, and the show-within-the-show, are early Christmas turkeys.  ‘Robbin Hood’ is a chronic chaps-and-gingham Midwest musical spoofing Oklahoma!, Crazy for You and for all we know The Beverly Hillbillies, so many meta-theatrical references are crammed into its assortment of poor songs and hackneyed dance routines. This much is deliberate.

Photo: Richard Davenport

What’s almost as chronic is the backstage murder mystery which wraps around it — the summer stock characters of hardboiled producer, lovestruck composer, self-adoring director and pushy ingénue are so two-dimensional they could populate a particularly bad episode of Murder She Wrote. Sadly, the flat score and over-long exposition make it hard to believe this was the last work of Kander and Ebb, writers of Chicago and Cabaret.

Photo: Richard Davenport

At the centre lies Jason Manford, a midfielder of the comedy circuit whose natural home is more 8 out of 10 Cats than in the musical theatre, and whose television future is dubious since his sitcom Scarborough was axed in November by the BBC after only six episodes.

He has a likeable comedy persona, but the combination of dad dancing, dodgy Boston accent and a hangdog expression makes it hard for him to bring Lt Cioffi to life in the stylish way of the original.

Photo: Richard Davenport

The cast work conspicuously hard with what they have — squeaky ingenue Emma Caffrey, wisecracking producer Rebecca Lock and lovestruck composer Aaron Fox played (at least until 6 January while Strictly-winner Ore Oduba is giving his Dandini in Croydon) with charm and a great voice by Andy Coxon.

Look, we get it: it’s a miserable wet day in December, you’ve shopped till you’ve dropped, and you’re looking for something to take your mum to.  This will do the trick.

Curtains The Musical, Wyndham’s Theatre, Charing Cross Road WC2.  Tickets £17.50-£137.50, until 11 January 2020.

Last Updated 20 December 2019