Theatre review - Curtains, Palace Theatre Manchester
- Credit: Richard Davenport/The Other Richard
Starring Jason Manford and Ore Oduba, Curtains is a lot of fun, with laughs from start to finish
Curtains, a musical whodunit, sprang from the pens and pianos of John Kander and Fred Ebb, the genius team behind endlessly popular - and much more famous - shows Cabaret and Chicago. Knowing this glowing heritage, audiences unsurprisingly expect a good time, when arriving at Curtains for its opening night this week.
They are not to be disappointed. From the opening scene, there is a sharp humour that draws us in, quickly gives depth and character to each role and results in big laughs both immediate and some that are slightly delayed, as people get the joke at different speeds.
The story is a simple one: a new musical opens in Boston, prior to a planned transfer to Broadway. The lead role is taken by Jessica Cranshaw, a Hollywood starlet who proves to be utterly awful - she can't sing, act or take direction. As the curtains come down, so does she - fainting to the ground in what is soon revealed as a fatal collapse. The whole cast is suspect, so are kept contained in the theatre while Lieutenant Frank Cioffi, played by Jason Manford, investigates. Cioffi, it turns out, is a HUGE fan of musical theatre and can't help being drawn into the production, making suggestions on improvements that could be made.
The greatest strength of this show lies in its scripting, which is immaculate. The same can't be said for the songs, which are fun and brilliantly performed, but not exactly memorable, as, say All That Jazz, or Life is a Cabaret, are memorable. With a sharp and funny script such as this, it would take a cast with the talent deficit of Jessica Cranshaw to mess it up - and this lot shine with talent.
Jason Manford is excellent in his role, a slightly over-awed, stage-dazzled officer of the law who falls instantly in love with one of the cast. His occasional Columbo moments keep the investigation on track, despite the body-count mounting. The 'nailed it' award however must go to Samuel Holmes, who takes this gift of a role as the show's director Christopher Belling and delivers a fabulous performance. Admittedly, he does get all the best lines, but his delivery of said lines is perfect, every time. He's not the only wit in the show - every cast member has a moment of pure humour, ensuring a constant flow of smiles and laughter.
Also of note is the excellent Rebecca Lock, who brings a New York-style toughness to her role of producer Carmen Bernstein and for whom the phrase 'belts out a tune' is wholly apposite.
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Add an excellent performance from Carly Stenson, who partners with Ore Oduba as the show's writers, and you've a cast made in heaven.
It's a fun, feel-good show that will warm the cockles. It could probably do with losing a song or two - many don't help the story along so while a great showcase for the cast's talents they're unnecessary and time-lengthening - but you will definitely leave with a smile on your face and a spring in your step.
Until 12 October: www.atgtickets.com/shows/curtains/palace-theatre-manchester/