Hear ye, Hear ye: the Wydham’s Theatre has in its possession, an antidote to all your Christmas crises. Curtains, which takes up residence in London’s West End before a UK-wide Tour, is an all-singing-all-dancing whodunnit, and an evening of infectious, raucous fun. Set in Boston, the action follows a troupe of American performers embroiled in a production of Robin Hood, with each member of the cast and creative team desperate in their pursuit of a Broadway transfer. However, on opening night, tragedy strikes – the company’s leading lady is killed, under suspicious circumstances. Or rather, it would be tragic, if she weren’t such a spanner in their creative works.
“She’s got a pulse!” Cries one, upon the discovery of her body. “First time she’s ever kept a beat,” sniggers another. The script, while silly, is deceptively sophisticated. Elements of comedy are carried boldly by the performers (particularly Samuel Holmes as Director Christopher Belling, who administers killer one-liners), who act with a keen self-awareness. This works to maximise the sense of humour created by their stereotypical characters – luvvie thespians through and through. Curtains also does well to make light of the interpersonal relationships shared by the cast and creative team, in addition to those forged with tabloids and their resident critics.
Complete with pin-curls, red lipstick and Mary-Jane’s, female characters are offset by their male counterparts, each clad in suits of various shades of blue, black and brown. Visually, the piece is a real treat – colourful, exciting and above all, surprising. The compositions too, are glorious. Fred Ebb (Lyrics) and John Kander (Music) have produced real ear-worms, songs that (for the most part) help to motor the narrative, and provide the necessary signposting required of a traditional murder mystery.
Brought in to solve the case, Lieutenant Frank Cioffi (played by Jason Manford) presents as a wary combination of Inspector Clouseau and Sherlock Holmes – this blend adding to the aforementioned – and pleasant – unpredictability of the story. Everybody is a suspect; red herrings are dropped liberally, but with care. This allows for notes of sweetness that, while syrupy, act to further the play’s charm. However, at two hours and 45 minutes, Curtains could do with a slight trim. It has all the ingredients of a perfect bake, though it takes some time to warm up – the plot could definitely do with thickening more quickly.