Composer John Kander and lyricist Fred Ebb’s collaboration produced more than 14 musicals and revues and is best remembered for the creation of Cabaret and Chicago. Curtains had already been stalled with the death of original book writer Peter Stone in 2003 but Robert Holmes was brought in to complete it when Ebb died in 2005. With Kander and Holmes finishing the work, it is often seen as Kander and Ebb’s final collaboration and despite its sentimentality, it marks a dazzling end to a career that spanned four decades.
A scene from Curtains at the Landor Theatre, London Photo: Francis Loney
Director Robert McWhir brings a touch of magic to this tongue-in-cheek murder mystery, bringing together a wonderful cast who fill the tiny Landor stage with an array of wonderful and whacky show people. Martin Thomas’ set skilfully blends backstage flies with ornate auditorium gilding and Robbie O’Reilly’s ebullient choreography knows no limits.
There are stand-out performances, particularly from the endearing Jeremy Legat as Lieutenant Frank Cioffi, the detective with a passion for musical comedy and Buster Skeggs as pragmatic producer Carmen Bernstein. Thomas Sutcliffe also proves he can own the stage with his wonderfully camp pas de deux, aided by Daniella Bowen’s gloriously dim Bambi although the biggest laughs and some of the best lines of the evening go to Bryan Kennedy’s desperately precious director.
Perhaps the most poignant moment of the evening is provided by Leo Andrew as composer Aaron Fox. In a thinly disguised tribute to his late collaborator, Kander gives us the lines - I can’t pretend, I miss the music I miss my friend - a fitting farewell to the late Fred Ebb. Ultimately this is a traditional musical comedy that despite some minor flaws, throws out plenty of laugh out loud one-liners and some great tunes.