Left – Simon Gleeson and Alinta Chidzey. Cover – Tony Rickards, Alex Rathgeber, Lucy Maunder and Melissa Langton. Photos – Christopher Parker
The great musical team of John Kander and Fred Ebb gave the world a number of highly successful, if dark, musical masterpieces, most notably Cabaret and Chicago. One of their final collaborations was a gem of a murder mystery comedy, Curtains, which thankfully gets a professional staging in Melbourne with this production.
Briefly, Curtains is a comedy musical whodunit, set backstage on a show that's having a pre-Broadway tryout (in Boston) and experiencing some major problems. When the leading lady dies, a Police investigator is called in and everyone is a suspect.
Littered with some marvelously drawn characters, memorable musical highlights, and a lot of laughs (jokes come thick and fast here, and even though a number are predictable, they still nearly always hit the mark), Curtains proves very hard to resist.
Kander (music) and Ebb (lyrics) have collaborated with Rupert Holmes (book), using an original book and concept by Peter Stone (who passed away before Curtains saw a rehearsal room, as did Fred Ebb).
What makes Curtains more than just a comedy musical, are the clever references to other shows, the behind-the-scenes bitchiness and the obvious love for the genre of musical theatre. Our leading man, a detective and keen musical theatre fan, is far more interested in solving the show-within-a-show's faults, than in solving the crime.
Director Roger Hodgman and choreographer Dana Jolly have not only staged this production well, but have an excellent cast on board, who collectively, in the very short rehearsal period, have created something that delivers a most enjoyable theatrical experience.
Simon Gleeson's nerdy love-struck Lieutenant Frank Cioffi is a delight. Gleeson proves that after the barricades of Les Mis he is adept at comedy and can even pull off more than a few dance steps.
Melissa Langton steps up to leading role status with another finely drawn character, Carmen Bernstein. Given some of the best musical numbers (Show People, It's a Business) as well as some of the funniest lines, Langton makes the most of this opportunity.
Lucy Maunder (Georgia) and Alinta Chidzey (Niki) deliver lovely performances, as do Zoe Coppinger (a very funny Bambi), and Jared Bryan (Bobby).
Other standout performances come from Colin Lane as director Christopher Belling and Nicki Wendt as the awful Jessica Cranshaw (our first victim).
Alex Rathgeber again delivers a fine performance with the role of Aaron Fox, and has the opportunity to sing one of the show's more introspective songs, the haunting I Miss the Music, which was supposedly written in memory of Fred Ebb, Kander's professional and life partner.
In all, Curtains proves to be the ideal choice for The Production Company, especially if you are looking to chase away the last of the winter blues.
The Production Company presents
John Kander and Fred Ebb
Director Roger Hodgman
Venue: State Theatre, Arts Centre Melbourne
Dates: 20 – 28 August 2016