“Curtains”

Al Hirschfeld Theatre, New York • 12 July 2007 • 8pm
Book by Rupert Holmes. Music by John Kander. Lyrics by Fred Ebb. Original Book & Concept by Peter Stone. Additional Lyrics by John Kander & Rupert Holmes.

Directed by Scott Ellis. Choreography by Rob Ashford. Music Director: David Loud. With David Hyde Pierce (Lieutenant Frank Cioffi), Debra Monk (Carmen Bernstein), Karen Ziemba (Georgia Hendricks), Jason Danieley (Aaron Fox), Edward Hibbert (Christopher Belling), Jill Paice (Niki Harris), Megan Sikora (Bambi Bernét), Ernie Sabella (Sidney Bernstein)…

I’d seen Curtains in Los Angeles in August of 2006 and had failed to enjoy it very much in spite of some strong points. Strangely enough, I found the show a lot more convincing this time around, although I don’t think it has changed much since LA.

Sure, the repetitious score isn’t top-drawer Kander and the book relies heavily on not-too-subtle jokes. But it’s difficult to resist what is after all a love song to the Broadway musical. I occasionally couldn’t resist shedding a tear, first during “Show People,” and later during “A Tough Act to Follow,” a rather wonderful tribute to the movie musicals of yesteryears — and a title that, as Ben Brantley noticed, aptly describes the legacy of Kander & Ebb.

David Hyde Pierce is perfect as the theatre-stricken detective who solves the murder mystery while fixing the show-within-the-show. His fellow cast members all give great performances, with special mentions for Debra Monk as the dry, foul-mouthed producer, Jason Danieley and his delightful singing voice and Edward Hibbert as the stiff director who gracefully accepts the ideas thrown his way by the policeman.

There is a general feeling of good-heartedness and dedication that contributes to the show’s appeal, as well as some crisp and clever directorial touches. I had been critical of Scott Ellis & Rob Ashford’s work when I first saw the show, but either they’ve managed to tighten everything or the huge Ahmanson Theatre was not the ideal place to appreciate their efforts.

In any case, Curtains comes across as a good and enjoyable musical comedy, which could have the potential to delight audiences for some time.

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