On 6/29/07, “Curtains” is the first of the plays during my latest visit to the Big Apple. The show is set in 1959 in Boston during the pre-Broadway tryout of a new musical. When the leading lady mysteriously dies onstage at the end of the show, the entire company and creative team are possible suspects. Their various motives must be sorted out by a local detective played by David Hyde Pierce (“Frasier”) who happens to be a musical theatre fan and holds everyone captive within the theatre until the mystery is solved.
This musical-within-a-musical mystery has music and lyrics by the legendary team of composer John Kander and the late lyricist Fred Ebb (“Chicago”, “Cabaret). The production as a whole is a return to old-fashioned musical comedy. It boasts a top cast of Broadway veterans (Debra Monk, Karen Ziemba, Jason Daniely, Ernie Sabella and Edward Hibbert), rousing production numbers, and a story that is actually cute and sweet at its core.
As the detective obsessed with fixing the show rather than finding the killer, Pierce is hilarious. Jill Paice proves to be a surprising comedienne as the theatre inegenue. This is in contrast to the dark role she delivered a season ago in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “The Woman in White”. Monk commands the stage as the tough and weary producer.
In the 1999-2000 season, a revival of “Kiss Me, Kate” played this same theatre. That show used a musical version of Shakespeare’s “Taming of the Shrew” as the show within a musical. With equality both the onstage musical and behind the scenes shenanigans proved equally enjoyable. The show within “Curtains” is called “Robbin’ Hood”, a musical of the old west, and only halts the immediate task at hand: solving the murder.
“Curtains” tries to recall a Broadway of days gone by. In that respect it partially succeeds. But with the pros on stage, the proceedings is made that more enjoyable. It is Pierce’s show in the end and he literally rides off into the sunset (well, into the wings of the stage) on a white stallion.
Nominated for 8 Tony Awards including Best Musical. The show received one win for David Hyde Pierce for Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Play.
‘Curtains’ plays at the Al Hirschfeld Theatre (running times: 2hrs 30min with intermission). Current performance times are Tues-Sat 8pm, Wed & Sat 2pm and Sun 3pm. Tickets top at $110. Book tickets at www.telecharge.com. The Original Broadway Cast Recording available on iTunes or on CD from Broadway Angel records. More information at www.curtainsthemusical.com. Production photographs used for illustration purposes only.
NOTE: 3/19/08 - "Curtains" plays its last performance on June 29, 2008 (after 511 performances and 26 previews).