The Internet Theater Magazine of Reviews, Features, Annotated Listings





Etcetera and
Short Term Listings


NYC Restaurants


New Jersey







Free Updates
Writing for Us
A CurtainUp Los Angeles Review

Critics earn their living by killing other people's dreams. --- Carmen.
Putting on a musical has got to be the most fulfilling thing a person ever gets to do. --- Lieut. Frank Cioffi

Jill Paice & David Hyde Pierce in Curtains. (Photo: Craig Schwartz)
It doesn't have the searing score of Cabaret or the dark satire of Chicago but this light-hearted mystery tuner has some stand-alone musical numbers that will go home from the theater with you. The plot is tight as a steel trap and often very funny, and the cast and production values are to die for.

Set in 1959 Curtains is a homage to the Golden Age of Musicals and not just the ones by Kander and Ebb, whose last hurrah this is. There's a showboat sweeping across stage (Jerome Kern), David Hyde Pierce takes his curtain call on a horse, and he and the Ingenue Niki (Jill Paice) do a 1930s Hollywood dance number on a staircase beneath chandeliers which I call Fred and Ginger but Niki calls Marge and Gower Champion. The proscenium of the Ahmanson Theatre has been embellished with the kind of fanciful whirls and carvings we can see for real at the other side of town in the Pantages.

When Lieutenant Frank Cioffi (David Hyde Pierce) is called to the Colonial Theatre in Boston during the out-of-town tryout of a new musical to solve the curtain call murder of the leading lady it's not the thrill of the chase that animates him but the thrill of the theatre --to be precise, musical theatre. A veteran of community theatre productions it's his dream come true to find himself on the same stage with real actors. Once, he and the leading lady Georgia (Karen Ziemba) even fake a scene to trap the killer but it's sharing a scene with Georgia that's most important to Frank. "Will you forget about murders for a second?" he yells at his suspects with impatient asperity, as he volunteers directorial suggestions to improve the production.

Pierce is wonderful at this. With the assistance of choreographer Rob Ashfonally stagestruck. This concept doesn't always work. Although some of the jokes are very funny, others are cringingly corny clichés. Let's hope that's the point.

Rupert Holmes, who wrote the book from the late Peter Stone's original concept and co-wrote additional lyrics after lyricist Fred Ebb's death, is in his element here. A mystery buff who won Tonys for The Mystery of Edwin Drood and a Mystery Writers of America award for Accomplice, he hits his marks with plenty of red herings and a killer you should suspect but probably won't.

Although this is a creampuff compared to some K&E works, John Kander's music has several fine stand-alone numbers "Show People" is sure to be a perennial Broadway anthem. "I Miss The Music" is a lyrically beautiful melody, particularly as sung by the superb Jason Danieley. "Coffee Shop Nights" with lyrics credited to Kander, Ebb and Holmes, conjures images of Edward Hopper's paintings. "A Tough Act To Follow"" is versatile enough to break into that Fred and Ginger dance number. "In The Same Boat" is a trio number used to demonstrate how concepts change as they are worked on in a musical and winds up with all three versions being performed simultaneously in an ingenious three-part confection, while that showboat glides self-importantly across the back of the stage.

The cast includes a powerful Debra Monk as producer Carmen Bernstein, who harshly disparages her dancing daughter Elaine who wants to be called Bambi so people won't think she got the part through nepotism. Bambi chose her name because you know what happened to Bambi's mother and Megan Sikora who plays her is a skilled dancer and has the sort of whiny Baby Snooks voice that is as much a musical cliché as the Ingenue and the Juvenile. Noah Racey dances his way through Bobby Pepper, the Juvenile, with youthful charm and grace. Jill Paice has a delicate crystal soprano and the kind of fragile blonde prettiness that makes you sure she'll get Ingenue parts for 50 years. Broadway veteran Karen Ziemba plays the writer who winds up a star (the composers may have wished upon one and allowed their fictional counterpart to make their dreams come true). Robert Walden plays the ill-fated Sidney Bernstein with a sinister leer that becomes a snarl whenever his honeymoon in San Juan, the butt of running jokes, is brought up. Edward Hibbert has swish and world-weary down pat as the director, Christopher Belling.

Anna Louizos's backstage set is appropriately dim and spooky, stunningly spotlighted by Peter Kaczorowski's lighting design. William Ivey Long's costumes combine 1950s glamour with heightened theatricality.

The real-life director Scott Ellis has championed the project for years. His production is trim, fit and ready to take its homage of memories and laughter to the Great White Way.

Music by John Kander, Lyrics by Fred Ebb, Additional Lyrics by John Kander and Rupert Holmes, Book by Rupert Holmes, Original Book and Concept by Peter Stone
Director: Scott Ellis
Cast: Jim Newman (Randy), Jill Paice (Niki), Patty Goble (Jessica Cranshaw, Connie), Noah Racey (Bobby Pepper), Michael X. Martin (Johnny), Darcie Roberts (Roberta Wooster), Megan Sikora (Bambie Bernstein), Karen Ziemba (Georgia Hendricks), Jason Danieley (Aaron Fox), Debra Monk (Carmen Bernstein), Michael McCormick (Oscar), Edward Hibbert (Christopher Belling), David Hyde Pierce (Lieut. Frank Cioffi), Mary Ann Lamb (Mona Page), Matt Farnsworth (Harv), Robert Walden (Sidney Bernstein), David Eggers (Detective O'Farrell, Roy Stetson), John Bolton (Daryl Grady), Nili Bassman (Arlene Barucca), Ward Billeisen (Brick Hawvermale), Jennifer Dunne (Jan), Brittany Marcin (Peg), Joe Aaron Reid (Ronnie), Christopher Spaulding (Russ)
Set Design: Anna Louizos
Lighting Design: Peter Kaczorowski
Costume Design: William Ivey Long
Sound Design: Brian Ronan
Choreographer: Rob Ashford
Conductor:- David Loud
Running Time: Two and a half hours, one intermission
Running Dates: July 25-September 10, 2006
Where: The Ahmanson Theatre, 135 N. Grand Avenue, Los Angeles, Reservations: (213) 680-4017
Reviewed by Laura Hitchcock on August 9.
A Tough Act to Follow Cioffi, Niki, Ensemble
Musical Numbers
Act One
  • Wide Open Spaces/ Jessica, Niki, Bobby, Bambi, Ensemble
  • What Kind of Man?/Carmen, Oscar, Aaron, Georgia
  • Thinking of Him/ Georgia, Aaron, Bobby
  • The Woman's Dead/ Entire Company
  • Show People/ Carmen, Cioffi, Entire Company
  • Coffee Shop Nights/ Cioffi
  • In the Same Boat 1 /Georgia, Niki, Bambi
  • I Miss the Music/ Aaron
  • Thataway!/Georgia, Ensemble
Act Two
  • He Did It/ Entire Company
  • In the Same Boat 2/ Bobby, Randy, Harv
  • It's A Business/ Carmen, Stagehands
  • Kansasland/Randy, Niki, Harv, Bobby, Bambi, Ensemble
  • I Miss the Music (Reprise) /Aaron, Georgia
  • A Tough Act To Follow /Cioffi, Niki, Ensemble
Wicked Tickets
Jersey Boys Tickets
Little Mermaid Tickets
Lion King Tickets
Young Frankenstein Tickets

broadway musicals: the 101 greatest shows of all time
Easy-on-the budget super gift for yourself and your musical loving friends. Tons of gorgeous pictures.

Leonard Maltin's Classic Movie Guide
Leonard Maltin's 2007 Movie Guide

At This Theater Cover
At This Theater

Leonard Maltin's 2005 Movie Guide

The Broadway Theatre Archive>


©Copyright 2006, Elyse Sommer.
Information from this site may not be reproduced in print or online without specific permission from