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European Première of Kander & Ebb’s Comedy Whodunit Musical ‘Curtains’ at the Landor Theatre is a smash hit....
Starring: Jeremy Legat, Bronwyn Andrews, Fiona O’Carroll, Buster Skeggs, Leo Andrew, Mark Joy, Bryan Kennedy, Daniella Bowen, Tom Pepper, Dudley Rogers, Martin Bishop, Thomas Sutcliffe, Josh Wilmott, Stephanie Parker, Zachary Morris, Louise Gookey, Alastair Knights, Julia Cave and Greg Herst
Book by Rupert Holmes
Lyrics by Fred Ebb
and music by John Kander
with additional lyrics by John Kander and Rupert Holmes
Based on the original book and concept by Peter Stone
Produced by Theatrica Ltd for The Landor Theatre
“We’re a Special Kind of People Known as Show People”
(Review by Fiona Lister)
The Landor Theatre’s European première of Kander & Ebb’s comedy whodunit musical Curtains seduced a full house of critics on Monday evening. The grand opening night spilled over with Broadway glamour, wacky humour, witty one-liners, a beautiful musical score and a beguiling cast who ooze sex appeal. The audience laughed and clapped – pure joy… and the merriment continued well into the glittering night with Kevin Wilson PR at the sparkling after-show party. I wasn’t in the least surprised to read the glowing Four Star review from Libby Purves in The Times yesterday morning or Petra Schofield’s review on Remote Goat describing Curtains as ‘a production that fizzes like a vintage champagne’.
Curtains follows the recent highly-acclaimed production of Kander & Ebb’s Flora The Red Menace (Produced by Andrew Yon from All Star Productions), a show that transferred to the Landor from its original home at Ye Old Rose & Crown Theatre in Walthamstow after a successful run.
Kander & Ebb are the creators of Cabaret and Chicago. The original book writer of Curtains Peter Stone died in April 2003, leaving the work unfinished. Rupert Holmes re-wrote the story but very sadly, Fred Ebb passed away in September 2004 and never got to see the completed musical. The show premièred at the Ahmanson Theatre in Los Angeles on 25th June 2006, before transferring to Broadway at the Al Hirschfeld Theatre. Despite mixed reviews, Curtains was nominated for eight Tony Awards. David Hyde Pierce won the award for Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Musical.
Set in 1959 at the Colonial Theatre in Boston, Curtains is a light-hearted comedy whodunit musical with a catchy, toe-tapping musical score, zany characters and a hilarious plot containing an Agatha Christie fashioned murder mystery interlaced with love stories. The show begins with a troupe of musical artists in the finale of their show ‘Robbin’ Hood’, a vamped up country and western version of Robin Hood, when leading star Jessica Cranshaw (played by Stephanie Parker) collapses on stage and eventually dies. Enter musical theatre loving Lieutenant Frank Cioffi (Jeremy Legat) who sets about solving the riddle of who Ms Cranshaw’s murderer could be, which proves tricky since the entire cast don’t miss her a jot and sing a mock funeral tribute to the late diva entitled "The Woman's Dead". Anyone could have dunnit!
Robert McWhir, the Landor Theatre’s charming flame-haired Artistic Director and award-winning Off West End Director demonstrated why he’s known as one of the most creative visionary talents in the business. This year, I was fortunate enough to see his productions of Lucky Stiff (Ahrens & Flaherty); The Glorious Ones (Ahrens & Flaherty) and of course, everyone is still talking about the sell-out production of Ragtime last year, which won three awards. Together with Andrew Keates, the Landor Theatre’s Manager and exceptional award-winning resident director and producer, the awesome duo inspire generations of actors, theatregoers, writers and other creative souls. McWhir and Keates nurture musical talent and unearth lost gems.
McWhir’s slick direction matches perfectly with the fast-paced book - he possesses the creative imagination to put a chorus of twenty dancers into the intimate space and make it look like the most lavish gala night on Broadway. The clever direction is astounding, drawing your eyes towards action from characters positioned all over the space. Thanks to the Designer Martin Thomas with Design Assistant Vytautas Pocius and Lighting Designer Rob Mills, every ounce of the studio resembles a grand theatrical palace with golden pillars and plush red curtains. The design is simple and uncluttered; this production focuses on fluidity of movement from the actors, something that is not easy to achieve with a large cast. The choreography by Robbie O’Reilly is electrifying and the large ensemble dance, high-kick and leap into the air with not so much as an ankle touching or legs tangling. This is highly polished, magnificent work. Congratulations must go to the ensemble – Tom Pepper, Stephanie Parker, Zachary Morris, Louise Gookey, Alastair Knights, Julia Cave and Greg Hurst who dazzle the audience with a blast of magically choreographed dance routines. Costume Supervisor Rachel Dingle has excelled with a choice of crimson Wild West dresses, giving the flavour of a glamorous 1950s bygone era. The result is stunning.
The perfect casting by Andrew Keates sees Jeremy Legat playing the lead role of Lieutenant Frank Cioffi who arrives on the scene to solve the murder of actress Jessica Cranshaw. Legat is a young charismatic actor with a string of credits to his name, both in theatre and television, including his own cabaret appearance in the Landor Theatre’s infamous ‘A Spotlight On…’ season. Please check www.JeremyLegat.com (Twitter:@jeremylegat) for his biography and details of past and present shows. Legat steals the limelight in the role of endearing lost super sleuth with college boy hair who falls in love with ditzy young actress Niki Harris played by Bronwyn Andrews. Flowering love turns to high comedy when out of loneliness he confides in Niki about the investigation. Needless to say, the pair forms a romantic sleuthing bond. Lieutenant Frank Cioffi is married to his job and Jeremy Legat sings the wonderful “Coffee Shop Nights” which melted the hearts of even the sternest critics. Bronwyn Andrews is dazzling as his Kylie Minogue-alike sidekick.
Fiona O’Carroll joins the cast in the role of seductive raven haired temptress Georgia Hendricks. Fiona sings the most memorable, vibrant song of the night ‘Thataway!” and certainly adds a dash of Mae West style punch to this glorious production. Leo Andrew in the role of Georgia’s ex-husband Aaron Fox gives a delightful performance as a haunted man who misses his ex-wife and sings the most moving, poignant song in the show “I Miss the Music”. Other exceptional performances were from Buster Skeggs who plays the role of Carmen Bernstein, a hard-nosed producer. Buster Skeggs is a ballsy, utterly brilliant performer, particularly shining in musical number “Show People” and owns the stage throughout in a Bette Midler way. Mark Joy in the role of Carmen’s philandering spiv husband Sidney Bernstein, gives a fabulous performance as a tough nut co-producer and Daniella Bowen is fantastic as dancer Bambi Bernét, Carmen’s ambitious daughter.
There are some hilarious one-liners in this show, particularly from Bryan Kennedy in the role of dry, camp, English Director Christopher Belling who managed to make a full house of critics laugh out loud. Bryan Kennedy reminds me a little of the late, great Ned Sherrin.
Other exceptional show-stopping performances are from Tom Pepper (Daryl Grady/Roy Stetson/Ensemble); Dudley Rogers (Johnny Harmon); Martin Bishop (Oscar Shapiro); Thomas Sutcliffe (Bobby Pepper) and Josh Wilmott (Randy Dexter).
The five-piece band under the musical supervision of Iain Vince Gatt, with Musical Director Michael Webborn on Keys, is sensational from the outset. The musical score will take your breath away – it’s vivacious, light and the band is the perfect size and pitch for the Landor’s intimate theatre. Michael Webborn is accompanied by Phil Smith (Trumpet), Gareth Smith (Percussion/Kit), Elaine Booth (Reed) and Sandy Suchodolski (Bass). Congratulations must also be made to Sound Designer Sarah Weltman. Top work from Thom Collins, the Company Stage Manager who helped to oversee the production work. This is Tom’s first production at the Landor Theatre.
The West End stage is missing out on writers like Kander & Ebb. West End theatres are generally opting to play it safe with the tried and tested mainstream musicals, jukebox musicals or solely commercially written shows. Understandably, there are many theatregoers who are seeking something different and who are in turn lured through the Landor’s doors. Viva! Whatever you do, get yourselves over the Landor to see Curtains – an entertaining, energetic masterpiece. FIVE STAR BRILLIANCE.
Strictly limited 6-week season at the Landor Theatre (running until 1st September 2012).
£20.00 (£18.00 concessions)
Please check twitter for details of any concessions or Twitter tickets:
Online bookings: www.landortheatre.co.uk
Landor Theatre, 70 Landor Road, London SW9 9PH
Tel: 020 7737 7276
Dates and Times
Wednesday 25 July – Saturday 1 September
Tuesday – Thursday & Saturday at 7.30pm
All Friday shows at 7.00pm
Saturday & Sunday matinees at 3.00pm
No performance on Friday 27th July
Press Night: Monday 30 July at 7.30pm