Last evening, Curtains opened at Broadway’s Al Hirschfeld Theatre. The show is among the final collaborations between John Kander and the late Fred Ebb (the book, along with added elements of the score, were written by Rupert Holmes). The new musical received positive to mixed notices, although critics were near unanimous in their adoration for David Hyde Pierce.
Proclaiming Curtains “a gust of giddy good fun,” Joe Dziemianowicz of New York’s Daily News praises the show: “It's no wonder Curtains is set in 1959. The era recalls the Golden Age of Broadway musicals, when many a show had hummable tunes, laugh-out-loud-able lines and adorable characters (even when they were horrible)…. The score is lighter than Chicago and Cabaret, but the legendary team has penned a show's worth of good tunes….Choreographer Rob Ashford also deserves big credit. The dancing is athletic and intricate and will knock your socks off….[T]he cast is fantastic.”
Deeming the show “a thoroughly entertaining new musical,” Associated Press’ Michael Kuchwara is positive: “It's a blissful, often very funny celebration of a bygone era, a theater world that has largely disappeared….It's the kind of corny, slightly naughty joke, courtesy of book writer Rupert Holmes, that propels the musical's genial self-mockery. Yet behind that tweaking is an affection for musical theater, a genuine appreciation of the craft and hard work that goes into making a show work. Director Scott Ellis artfully keeps that balance intact while pushing the convoluted plot forward.”
Concluding that Curtains “works,” Variety’s David Rooney was ultimately charmed by the show: “That this determinedly old-fashioned murder-mystery musical actually comes out on top is a credit to the talented creative team involved, on- and offstage. Rarely does a show with such a meandering first act -- enlivened by low-key laughs but alarmingly light on momentum -- bounce back after intermission with such infectious, ingratiating spirit….Amusing when it should be uproarious, pleasantly tuneful when it should be transporting, the show diverts but never dazzles. Somewhere early in act two, however, it quietly builds charm, cheek and cleverness, making it register as satisfying entertainment by final curtain. Much of the credit goes to an expertly chosen cast.”
Even Eric Grode of the New York Sun is mostly favorable: “What this gang of merry miscreants did is breathe a faint but nonetheless refreshing blast of air into a format that has been hurting for oxygen of late -- the good old-fashioned musical comedy. They may not have gotten away with it entirely, but John Kander, Fred Ebb, and a passel of other pros led by the sure-footed director Scott Ellis have added a harmless new entry into a sadly underrepresented subgenre: the murder-mystery musical….the show's deep-rooted affection for the (literally) wicked stage could bring the lieutenant Frank Cioffi out of any but the most grumbly theatregoer.”
In her two-and-a-half-star review, USA Today’s Elysa Gardner provides a mixed assessment: “There are some endearing tunes (Holmes contributed additional lyrics) and likable performances from Pierce, sporting a droll Baah-stin accent, and Karen Ziemba, who plays Robbin' Hood's lyricist-turned-replacement star. Debra Monk and Edward Hibbert have audience-pleasing turns as a sassy veteran producer and a smug, flamboyant director….But in the end, the cast members, like the players they play, are confined by their material. Curtains may be a sweet swan song, but it will hardly be remembered as Kander and Ebb's finest hour.”
Referring to Curtains as a “talent-packed, thrill-starved production,” Ben Brantley of The New York Times provides a review that’s mixed at best: “Perhaps (the) switching of creative horses accounts for the enervation that seems to underlie the lavish expenditure of energy by a top-of-the line cast that includes Debra Monk, Karen Ziemba and Jason Danieley. Brightly packaged, with Kiss Me, Kate-style sets by Anna Louizos and costumes to match by the industrious William Ivey Long, Curtains lies on the stage like a promisingly gaudy string of firecrackers, waiting in vain for that vital, necessary spark to set it off.”
In his two-star review, New York Post’s Clive Barnes is perhaps the most negative: “The John Kander/Fred Ebb/Rupert Holmes musical that opened at the Hirschfeld last night has two things going for it: the effortless performances of its star, the nervy, impeccable David Hyde Pierce as a stage-struck 1959 Boston detective brought in to solve a backstage murder, and, in a smaller role, Edward Hibbert as that show's effetely acerbic director….I just found it awe-inspiringly bad. Unfortunately, it was difficult to discern just where the joke musical ended and the actual one began.”
Readers will recall how much I enjoyed this tuner during its out of town tryout last summer in Los Angeles. Coupled with the generally positive audience buzz, there is much to market in these reviews. We’ll see what impact, if any, they have on the upcoming box office.
This is Steve On Broadway (SOB).
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Curtains Finally Open On New Kander & Ebb Tuner (March 22, 2007)
Honorable Mentions: SOB's Singular Sensations Of '06 (December 30, 2006)
Curtains To Rise At Al Hirschfeld Theatre In March (November 3, 2006)
Calling It Quits: The Wedding Singer Set To Close At Year’s End (October 26, 2006)
Survey Says.... (October 23, 2006)
High Fidelity Tunes In To High Capacity Imperial (August 24, 2006)
Which Broadway Musical Will Depart Next? (August 21, 2006)
Curtains Meets the Critics (August 10, 2006)
Curtains (The SOB Review) – Ahmanson Theatre at the Music Center, Los Angeles, CA (August 10, 2006)
Curtains Set to Rise on Curtains Tonight in LA (August 9, 2006)
Curtains Pulls Advance Buzz (August 1, 2006)
Curtains' Calling on Broadway? (July 24, 2006)
Kander and Ebb's Curtains Set to Rise in LA This Summer (May 11, 2006)