Friday, February 23

The Musical Comedy Whodunit: Curtains – Rotherham Civic

Maltby Musical Theatre group founded in 1949 bring to Rotherham’s Civic Stage the lesser known Kander and Ebb Musical, Curtains which was nominated for 8 awards at the 2007 Tony Award’s including Best New Musical. Well, it’s 1959, and the Colonial Theatre in Boston is to premier a new musical. Cue the mayhem, as it’s ’curtains’ for the leading lady and the entire cast and crew are now suspects. Enter stage left, the musical theatre fan of a detective, to solve the crime.  With several more murders and attempted murders along the way, love stories and a stage mother with attitude and the perpetrator is finally brought to justice. But we are warned in the encore, it will be ‘Curtains’ for us if we disclose the killer, so that is a very good reason to catch the show whilst you can. The script is charmingly twee and very witty, littered with MT references in every guise, and Maltby Musical Theatre Group doesn’t allow any of the wry humour or double entendre (of which there is plenty!) to go unnoticed. The direction by Richard Wilshaw was swift and didn’t allow the sometimes overly wordy script to stall.  Choreography by Helen Woodley and Musical Direction by Martha Hayward added periodic context to the show. The 10-piece Band who were more than accompanists, were led by Steve Trotter on Keyboard and provided the catchy tunes of the era. The score lacks the ‘showstopper’ number and even the 11 o’clock is on its 3rd rewrite of the day! But it’s all part of the illusion – clever. This was actually the first time I have seen this Musical; however, it is one I have been promising myself to catch for quite a while. I had heard the show was a little longer than was necessary and to be fair, it probably is but I didn’t mind at all, I was really enjoying every moment. It was a perfect vehicle for this theatre group, whom I have witnessed find comedy in shows previously. It was great to see Roger Hazelwood as the stagehand, stealing the one liners alongside the very capable female cleaner who unfortunately I missed her name. But her chain-smoking performance was very amusing!

There were some fine performances on the stage tonight by the whole cast. However, notable performances start with the Lieutenant Frank Cioffi played by Andrew Trueman. Trueman was at total ease in this role and even with the dream sequence dance (yes, lots of musicals theatre references throughout for the ardent MT knowledgeable!), he maintained command and charisma in the dance duet with the much more dance savvy Anita Boylan as his love interest Niki Harris. Boylan was a safe pair of hands for the role of Niki and created a naivety that was peppered with both humour and pathos. Barry Foster as the hilarious director Christopher Belling was a real highlight for me, this role seems to have some of the best lines in the show and Foster made them all count. Not all politically correct it has to be said but executed with great timing. I particularly liked the physicality of his character, which he maintains from overture to bows. Notable young members who are both ones-to-watch for the future are Louis Sykes as Bobby Pepper, who has a great stage presence and self confidence in abundance and Daisy Ellison as Bambi (Elaine) Bernet who is very aesthetic to watch, and her vocal tone is appealingly audible.  My performer of the show has to go to a stellar performance by Fiona Broadhead at the calculated Carmen Bernstein. What a strong singer/ actor this lady is, her subversive ‘stage mother’ and renditions of ‘Show People’ and ‘It’s a Business’ showed perfect casting! I hope to see more of her in future – Very impressive!

Curtain’s is a ‘must see at least once’ kind of show for any Musical Theatre fan and one I will personally be visiting – more than once. It’s great to see less ‘popular’ musicals being performed and one so in such an accomplished way. Can I thank Maltby Musical Theatre Group for a very enjoyable evening in which I laughed, more than I have done for quite a while at the theatre! I hope to catch more of Maltby’s shows in the future if tonight was anything to go by!

Reviewer: Tracey Bell

Reviewed: 11th March 2022

North West End UK Rating: ★★★★