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A CurtainUp Los Angeles Review
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.
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Little Mermaid Tickets
Lion King Tickets
Young Frankenstein Tickets
Easy-on-the budget super gift for yourself and your musical loving friends. Tons of gorgeous pictures.
Leonard Maltin's 2007 Movie Guide
At This Theater
Leonard Maltin's 2005 Movie Guide