Bayside High School, Grade 12
A musical within a musical/murder mystery--sounds interesting, right? Well, that's what made me want to see Curtains. A star cast, including Frasier's David Hyde Pierce and Edward Hibbert, and seasoned actress Debra Monk makes it sound even more appealing. With all this in mind, I had high hopes for this musical.
The plot of the story literally brings you behind the "curtains" of a fictional musical called Robbin' Hood of the Old West, a sort of Westernized version of Robin Hood. On the opening night of the show, Jessica Cranshaw, the talentless lead actress, is mysteriously murdered. Although they don't exactly miss Jessica, the cast and producers are left in a paranoid state. Fortunately, Lieutenant Frank Cioffi of the Boston Police Department, played by David Hyde Pierce, comes in to solve the case. He sequesters everyone in the theatre because the murderer must have been one of them. In the process, he--a huge fan of theatre himself--gets caught up in ways to improve the show, and even falls for the ingénue, the delightful Niki Harris.
Throughout the first act, I was sort of marking time until David Hyde Pierce appeared. The second act improved as the plot progressed. I also found the set to be fascinating, especially when they basically flipped the stage from the audience's view to the backstage view. But I'm not a big Western fan, and the musical within Curtains was very reminiscent of shows like Oklahoma!. The show, in my opinion, spent a bit too much time on Robbin' Hood and too little on the murder mystery aspect.
It seems that the producers of Curtains have tried very hard (perhaps too hard?) to bring back the good old traditional musical. Kander and Ebb, who wrote the songs, were the ones who brought us the tunes of such shows as Chicago and Cabaret, and even Frank Sinatra's signature song, "New York, New York." There were about four songs I found entertaining in Curtains, but sadly, the rest of the songs were similar in sound and, to be frank, pretty forgettable.
Some of the dancing was spectacular. In the role of Bambi Bernet, Megan Sikora did a series of cartwheels that left me wondering how any human is capable of doing so without getting dizzy. Still, I felt that many of the high-kick-filled dance numbers were either too long or unnecessary in the first place.
In spite of the show's flaws, Pierce gives a charming performance. (It won him a Tony Award.) Edward Hibbert, also familiar from the cast of Frasier, plays Christopher Belling, the sarcastic British director of Robbin' Hood. Every time he interjects a comment, it sends a burst of laughs and chuckles throughout the theatre.
To those who like more unconventional Broadway shows like Passing Strange or The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee,, this may not be the show for you. The plot and storyline keeps interest, but it gets lost amid the showy music numbers. All in all, this middling musical left me wishing for more acting and less dancing.
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