If you are a musical theatre fan and you heard the names Kander and Ebb you’d be forgiven for just thinking of Chicago or Cabaret. Whilst they might be the more well-known shows from talented music and lyrics duo, they are certainly not the only ones that were a hit.
One of their later productions Curtains, which opened on Broadway in 2007, won itself a Tony award, amongst other accolades. and is now finally introducing itself to audiences over the pond with its first ever UK tour.
The show runs at Manchester’s Palace Theatre until the 12th October starring some familiar faces in the lead roles; comedian Jason Manford, TV presenter Ore Oduba and former Hollyoaks actress Carly Stenson.
If you are looking for a night out that is jampacked with humour, big show numbers and a lot of class, then this is definitely one to go watch. Curtains recreates the Hollywood glamour of the 30s and 40s presenting what is essentially a show within a show.
It starts with the opening of Robbin Hood the musical (think Oklahoma mixed with Annie get your Gun) when the show’s obnoxious and talentless leading lady Jessica Cranshaw is found dead after taking what fittingly seems to be her final curtain call.
Having made a number of enemies in the cast and production team, Lieutenant Frank Cioffi (Jason Manford) is called in to find out ‘whodunnit’. Was it the husband and wife songwriters of the show Georgia Hendricks (Carly Stenson) and Aaron Fox (Ore Oduba) or could it be the frustrated director Christopher Bellings (Samuel Holmes) who got sick of the star’s demanding ways?
There’s two and a half hours of twists and turns to keep you guessing and I guarantee you still won’t believe who the killer is in the end.
Jason Manford is just brilliant as the Boston Lieutenant who feels he’s not just here to figure out who the murderer is but also how to fix the failing show (see he’s a bit of an am dram enthusiast himself)!
Manford may be dressed like Sam Spade but there’s a definite air of Columbo in is performance. He plays the role so endearing that you just want to run out of your seat and give him a hug – he’s definitely nothing like Luther.
It’s clear Jason has made his mark in musical theatre after appearing in shows like The Producers, Chitty and Sweeney Todd but I feel in this role he has found his perfection – there’s comedy which he excels at, dancing which he can turn his toes to and his vocals really are lovely to listen to.
Hats off to Casting Director Jim Arnold for also giving Ore Oduba his first leading role as Aaron Fox, a man in love with the music so much he has missed out on loving his wife and writing partner Georgia – who just happens to be the one asked to step into the leading ladies shoes now murder has left them needing to be filled. Are we keeping up here?
Singing is still relatively new to Oduba after playing the role of Teen Angel in Grease earlier this year but it’s clear he’s a man that can do almost anything (as he proved with his dancing by winning Strictly in 2016) and when his solo I Miss the Music is sung it is a lovely moment in the show.
Carly Stenson excels as Georgia, bagging most of the musical numbers which let her show off her talents in both song and dance. This is a lighter role for Stenson than her previous one of Fantine in Les Mis and she revels in the comedy.
There’s more than a hint of Liza Minnelli in her in the number Thataway which shows off her West End wings and packs a punch that sends you straight into act two, (plus has the men in the audience going hot under the collar).
Other mentions must go to Rebecca Lock as ballsy producer Carmen Bernstein and Samuel Holmes as hot headed and fabulously camp director Christopher Belling – both of whom light up the stage in every scene they are in and are wickedly talented to watch.
I don’t want to give away too much about this show as it is a murder mystery after all, but what I can say is it will make you feel nostalgic as it whisks you back to the days of silver screens stars such as Gene Kelly and Fred Astaire.
Expect huge Hollywood dance numbers wonderfully choreographed by Alistair David (complete with An American in Paris style ballet sequence), and the most glamourous period style costumes created by designer Gabriella Slade.
Curtains is a great show that will keep you entertained from start to finish and leave you feeling like you’ve taken a trip to the West End without stepping out of the M1 postcode!
A musical whodunnit!
Where: Palace Theatre
When: until Saturday 12th October