Something exciting is happening to musical theater this Broadway season. Producers are actually putting on good shows. First it was was the original and poignant Grey Gardens.Then it was the thought provoking rock musical Spring Awakening. Add Curtains to that list and you get an amazing triptych of ingenuity and entertainment.
Curtains opens officially on March 22, 2007 at the Al Hirshfeld theater. Currently in previews I've had the opportunity to work both the first and last weeks before it opens on Thursday night. Curtains is a good old fashioned musical with catchy songs, feel good production numbers and an all-star cast.
The show opens with the final act of Robbin' Hood where we meet Jessica Crenshaw, the show's talentless leading lady who literally dies on stage - after final bows. Finding out who killed her is the main storyline of the show. In the secondary storyline, the cast tries to save Robbin' Hood so they can take it to Broadway. This first scene sets up the show within the show. In the second scene, we meet the people behind the scenes of the show within the show. We meet Aaron and Georgia Fox, song writer and lyricist of the show played by Jason Danieley and Karen Ziemba; Carmen Bernstein, the show's brassy, buxom and bellicose producer, played with aplomb by Debra Monk; Christopher Belling the show's urbane and slightly effete director, played by Edward Hibbert; sugary sweet ingenue Niki Harris played effusively by Jill Paice. But most importantly we meet police Lt. Frank Cioffi who will solve the crime and ultimately save the show. He is played by the very talented David Hyde Pierce.
There is a lot of character development and exposition throughout Act I but you don't really mind so much because the jokes are funny and the numbers are great. The genius of the show is the intermarriage between the main plot and the secondary plot. For example, at the close of Act I the cast is rehearsing the end of Act I for Robbin' Hood. When Lt. Cioffe jumps out from stage left and exclaims that number was so good "it will leave the audience chompin' at the bit for Act II", he's also relaying back to the audience how they most likely feel having just seen the number.
Throughout the show there are a lot of references to a Broadway that doesn't exist anymore. And you get the feeling that the producers really miss the way Broadway used to be. I don't want to give anything away. There are a lot of great surprises resulting from the exceptionally large amount of misdirection.
But I can share with you the best part of the show without giving anything away. The performances are top-notch. It's worth the full ticket price if you can afford it and if not, I saw it on the TKTS board at 50% off last night. Try to see the show while it's still fresh and all these great people are in it.