The Production Company’s Curtains
While Curtains may be a rather recent musical creation, the timeless writing from Kander & Ebb revives the classic musical theatre traditions for the stage done justice by a cast of Australia’s most impressive musical theatre talent in this theatrical murder mystery that is The Production Company’s second show of 2016.
Making its Broadway debut in 2007, Curtains was the last collaboration between iconic musical theatre duo John Kander & Fred Ebb known Cabaret, Chicago and Kiss of the Spiderwoman among many others. This show takes the long tradition of ‘backstage’ musicals to a new murder mystery setting as Jessica Cranshaw, the star-cast leading actress of fictional show Robbin’ Hood of the Wild West (played memorably in her short period onstage by Nicki Wendt) is killed during the curtain call on the opening night of their out-of-town try-out. Enter Lieutenant Frank Cioffi (Simon Gleeson) – a Boston police detective and amateur musical theatre performer – who must investigate the murder of Jessica Cranshaw, work his way through an entire cast of deceptive suspects and fix the show before a second opening night. It is musical mayhem reminiscent of the golden era musical theatre.
Leading the Production Company’s second show of 2016 is Simon Gleeson straight from his highly-acclaimed run as Jean Valjean in the Australian tour of Les Miserablés. In a role originated by Fraiser’s David Hyde Pierce on Broadway, Simon Gleeson carefully balances very clever comedic timing with his beautiful voice in a performance which resonates with the musical theatre fan in all of us. His performance comes into its own when paired with his developing love interest understudy Niki Harris, played by Production Company favourite Alinta Chidzey, leading the ensemble through the extravagant eleven o’clock number A Tough Act to Follow as these two leads proclaim their love to each other.
As ballsy and brassy Broadway producer Carmen Bernstein, Melissa Langton is the best choice The Production Company could have made from Australia’s incredible selection of talent. This is a role which allows her to show off an enviable range in some classically-written musical theatre numbers, the highlight of which is her star-turn in Show People belting in front of the rest of the cast in a kickline. In complete contrast, Lucy Maunder – making her debut with the company as the lyricist and replacement star Georgia Hendricks – gets to explore the softer moments with grace and finesse as she is stuck in a love triangle between her ex-husband who has composed the musical and her new beau who stars on stage. But her finest moment comes when taking over the leading role in this fictional musical and ending Act 1 with the big production number ‘Thataway!’.
As usual, the Production Company has managed to once again draw together a line-up of Australian musical theatre talent which would make any producer envious with Colin Lane, Alex Rathgeber, Zoe Coppinger and Jared Bryan leading an incredible ensemble of up-and-coming Australian talent who will soon be gracing Australia’s stages in leading roles. But the biggest surprise from the production was the performance debut by the nation’s favourite conductor John Foreman as fictional Robbin’ Hood conductor Sasha Iljinsky who took a temporary reprieve from his podium to open Act 2 with a solo reprise of ‘The Woman’s Dead’ which received a surprised round of applause from the opening night audience!
This production partnered with the new (and clever) choice of sponsor Warwick Fabrics who, with the direction of set designer Christina Smith and costume designer Esther Marie Hayes, have created one of the most elaborate and beautiful sets in the company’s history with some clever, multi-faceted design choices transporting the audience back to the golden era with a mass of red velvet adorning the stage during the production numbers.
Curtains is only open for a limited run at Arts Centre Melbourne’s State Theatre until August 28 which means you only have a few opportunities to see this must-see production before the curtain comes down on, not just the characters, but the entire show. For more information and to book tickets, visit www.artscentremelbourne.com.au