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Curtains, A Musical Whodunnit: New Wimbledon Theatre (and touring)

(Seen at the afternoon performance on 18th January 2020)

Boston 1959. A musical version of “Robin Hood,” transposed to Kansas USA is trying out pre-Broadway. On the opening night, the leading lady dies. A Detective seals everyone inside the theatre... but the body count mounts. Can he solve the crime alone?

Musical spoof is always hard to do, but Kander and Ebb are Masters of Musical theatre, and Peter Stone and Rupert Holmes know how to construct a tale. The whole story hangs together pretty well, and this is a truly solid production too.

There are some cracking songs – “Coffee Shop Nights” about the lonely life of a Police Detective Lieutenant, a nifty (totally inaccurate) review of theatre critics “What Kind of Man?” and a strong ensemble number “A Tough Act to Follow.” Sadly, there is also probably the worst show tune the monkey will hear this year, “The Woman’s Dead,” – a real zit on the Supermodel which should be “Lost in Boston” as the American Theatrical saying goes.

It's a strong cast, too. Jason Manford is in fine form as Lieutenant Frank Cioffi. Leah Barbara West works hard (though she doesn’t need to) as his love-interest Niki Harris. Carley Stenson’s singing voice continues to gain warmth and power as leading lady Georgia Hendricks.

Mother and daughter Rebecca Lock (Carmen Bernstein) and Emma Caffrey (Bambi Bernet – her name one of the best gags in the show) are not only impressive performances but sympathetic in adversity.

Paul Foster finds ways to keep a somewhat lengthy show moving even when the script itself flags occasionally. Choreographer Alistair David and assistant Victoria Hinde overcome what could be a mostly static suggestion (given the storyline) to stage some longer dance-breaks, with knowing nods to certain shows staged perhaps a state or so away.

Much must be made of David Woodhead’s set – no compromise for a tour, and able to fill the New Wimbledon’s vast stage better than their most recent pantomime fixtures did. Tim Mitchell’s lighting proves equally flexible as it moves between venues, and a note for the accuracy of the cues and follow-spot is in order.

A chance to see a Broadway failure redeemed, and not limited to the West End. Produced to the highest standards using a top-notch cast and production team, this is a model of how touring shows should be... minus the slightly chancy life expectancy of the cast, of course... If your local theatre are receiving it, take the opportunity for a funny, tuneful night out.


4 stars.


Photo credit: Richard Davenport. Used by kind permission.


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