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Curtains, the Kander and Ebb musical that has just opened on Broadway, has no genuine showstoppers, a merely serviceable book, and an inbred theatrical storyline that is as old- fashioned as vinyl records. Curtains played a high-profile, pre-Broadway engagement at the estimable Ahmanson in Los Angeles before hitting New York and it would be easy to dismiss the result with: if you like this sort of thing, then this is the sort of thing you will like.
The cobweb-clogged Chaperone, however, which, like Curtains, was graced with a delightful effete turn from Edward Hibbert, could be recommended only to the most hardcore musical-comedy fan. Curtains flashes genuine wit, even as it adds nothing especially interesting to the hoary backstage musical genre.
We begin in Boston. A pre-Broadway troupe is performing Robbin’ Hood when its talent-free leading lady dies suspiciously during a curtain call. The producer, played by Debra Monk, whose number “It’s a Business,” is the closest Curtains gets to anything ovation-worthy, wants to recast the part.
The Boston show’s composer, Aaron, whose interpreter, Jason Danieley, has an angelic tenor, and his estranged wife, Georgia, get to work revising Robbin’ Hood, and in the process Georgia herself ends up replacing the lead. Meanwhile, the “Bah-ston” police lieutenant Frank Cioffi, given slick spin by David Hyde Pierce, quarantines the cast in order to capture the killer.
Rupert Holmes, who was brought in to write Curtains’s book after its originator, Peter Stone, passed away, and who worked on the songs with composer John Kander after the lyricist Fred Ebb died, is an experienced whodunit novelist. Unfortunately, the sleuthing is the creakiest part of the show.
Much better are the showbiz scenes, with some amusingly snide asides aimed at critics. Director Scott Ellis’s pace sags only occasionally. William Ivey Long, who did the opulent costumes, will never have his own line at H&M. That’s a compliment.
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