THEATRE AT HOME REVIEW: Curtains ★★★
Wyndham’s Theatre, London
Friday 13th December 2019 - Monday 13th January 2020
Based on Peter Stone’s Book of the same name, Curtains is a musical production set in 1959 Boston, where a performance of Aaron Fox (Ore Oduba) and Georgia Hendrick’s (Carley Stenson) Robbin’ Hood of The Old West gets struck with disaster on it’s press night when Jessica Cranshaw, the show’s leading lady, collapses and is later pronounced dead following an incident that evening. It’s not long into the night that Lt. Frank Cioffi (Jason Manford) enters the scene, and intead of focusing on the murder itself, we follow Cioffi as a dectective who has longed to be have a career on the stage.
Stunt Casting in the UK has in recent years become more prominent, with West End Shows such as ‘Everybody's Talking About Jamie’ and ‘Waitress’ taking the forefront, to give celebrities the chance to prove they are more than just a vlogger or a pussycat doll. Here, Presenter and Comedian Jason Manford, as well as Strictly 2016 winner Ore Oduba, take the stage but sadly provide uneven performances throughout. Whilst Oduba certainly wows with his vocals and dancing rhythm, which makes him perfect for the role of playwright Aaron Fox, it’s Manford who lacks in comic timing and the ability to perform through song, making his vocals completely separate to his bumbling acting ability that comes off cringeworthy in parts, which is a shame as I am personally a big fan of Manford as a Presenter, and his recent stint on The Masked Singer UK, which was a triumph success.
Mentioned earlier, Carley Stenson takes on the role of Georgia Hendricks, Aaron Fox’s songwriting partner, with a decent performance; Oduba and Stenson’s duet ‘Thinking of Him’ provides a touching moment of the two divorcees trying to find some reconciliation between each other. Then there’s the incredibly stubborn and forceful nature that is Carmen Bernstien, a bitter co-producer played with angst and brilliance from Rebecca Lock, who never fails to give an electrifying performance, most notably from her recent outing as Ms. Flemming in Heathers The Musical. Unfortunately, Oduba and Stenson only get limited stagetime as their subplot does not become vital to the Murder Mystery, and this feels like a misjudgemnet as they fade away long before the curtain falls at the climax to become background characters, though Lock’s furocious presence continues to be felt aganist Manford, as she completely walks all over his performance with attitude and menace.
Samuel Holme’s portrayal of Director Christopher Belling for me though became the standout character in the whole production, constantly building a witty and flamboyant aura that was pitched perfectly with waves of bitterness and delight. One memorable highlight came at the top of Act Two, with the musical number ‘He Did It’ coming at a time where everyone is accusing each other at the dead of night regarding the several murders that have continued to occur. These dark moments is where Tim Mitchell’s Lighting Design proves most effective, with flashlights making their way around the stage. Furthermore, much later on in the production when Manford, Leah West (Niki Harris, Cioffi’s Love Interest), and Holmes are situated on the flyfloor of the theatre, David Woodhead’s Set Design makes the locations come to life right before our eyes, which is an juxtaposition on his otherwise purposeful demolished and tacky scenery featured into the Robbin Hood segments of the show.
Overall, whilst Curtains is billed a ‘Musical Whodunnit’, the actual premise of this thriller is most certainly not the focus, as instead we follow a bumbling detective realise his passion to be on the stage, with the ultimate reveal of the murderer coming off anticlimactic due to the sheer amount of undeveloped ensemble members, and similarly providing forgettable songs from Kander and Ebb, though there is however some wonderful performances, most notably from Rebecca Lock and Samuel Holmes.