Theatre ReviewsTom Williams


Book by Rupert Holmes

Music by John Kander

Lyrics by Fred Ebb

Directed by William Brown

Music Direction by Doug Peck

Choreographed by Linda Fortunato

At Drury Lane Oakbrook Theatre

Curtains is a “must see” hilarious new musical whodunit

Now in their 25th season, Drury Lane Oakbrook Theatre, has grabbed the first regional production of Curtains preceding even the first National Tour! Credit Kyle and Drew DeSantis for their initative. Once this fabulous show woos their West Suburban audiences with its smart wit, humor and musical chops—I hope they will remount Curtains at their Drury Lane Water Tower Place.

Curtains is the show that almost wasn’t as original book writer Peter Stone died early on to be replaced by Rupert Holmes and lyricist Fred Ebb also died to be placed by Holmes and John Kander. But in the finest tradition, the Curtains show did go on. The result of this unique collaboration is one clever, witty and thoroughly enjoyable musical mystery. Seldom will you find as brilliant a book that aptly captures a multiple level story as Curtains contains. The ‘play within a play’ and the whodunit work well together.

Set in 1959 in Boston, a musical theatre troupe is finishing a performances of their new musical—Robbin’ Hood! A New Musical of the Old West—when their star Jessica Cranshaw (Paula Scrofano), an untalented film diva collapses during the curtain call. The reviews are bad, the company morale is down to zero and Lt. Frank Cioffi (Sean Fortunato in a true tour de force performance) from the Boston Police arrives to announce that Cranshaw was indeed murder by someone in the company.

Cioffi is also a star-struck community theatre actor besides being a homicide detective. Cleverly Rupert Holmes layers the whodunit elements with hilarious backstage show biz techniques as Cioffi equally is determined to both solve the murder and fix Robbin’ Hood before it moves to Broadway. With quips from the obnoxious director Christopher Belling (John Reeger displaying his razor sharp comic timing), Curtains garners many laughs. When one of the producers gets murdered and another is shot at, the cast becomes suspicious and fearful.

The play contains romantic twists that finds the song writing couple—Aaron Fox (James Rank) and his ex Georgia Hendricks (Christine Sherill) sparing to rekindle their flame told in the song “Thinking of Him.” In act two the sparks fly between Cioffi and Niki Harris (Jessie Mueller) that is stages as a romantic duet sung and dance on an empty stage save for a step ladder (ala Singing’ In the Rain). This terrific scene was pure a pure 50’s romance done as an elaborate fantasy.

As Cioffi works to both solve the murder that becomes murders as Sidney and the stage manager fall, he is also fixated on repairing the flaws in the musical. This overlay leads to many laughs and clever moments. Curtains contains spoofs to musicals such as Oklahoma, 42nd Street and Singing’ In The Rain as well as Annie Get Your Gun with tunes like “Show People.” “Kansasland,” “It’s a Business” and “I Miss the Music.” There are enough show-stopping dance numbers to please as well as humor and a genuine mystery ripe with red herrings and obscure clues. You’ll be on the edge of your seats laughing, toe-tapping and wondering what will happen next with Curtains.

The outstanding cast each contributed effectively—from James Rank’s belting “I Miss the Music” to John Reeger’s acute comedic timing to Christine Sherril’s sensual leading lady work to Jessie Mueller’s fine acting to Nancy Voigts and Paula Scrofano’s comic turns, Curtains becomes one wildly entertaining show. The ensemble danced up a storm to Linda Fortunato’s energetic choreography. However, Curtains is really Sean Fortunato’s show since Lt. Cioffi is such a key character. Fortunato plays him as a lovable combination of Columbo and theatre geek. We quickly love this guy and Sean Fortunato gave him loads of heart as he demonstrates his acting, singing and dancing talents that work to anchor and focus the charm and wit of Curtains.

Curtains is a fabulous work new to Chicago that is a major entertainment bargain at $29 -$35 per ticket.

Highly Recommended

Tom Williams

Jeff Recommended

Drury lane Oakbrook Theatre, 100 Drury Lane, Oakbrook Terrace, IL, call 630-530-0111, ,tickets $29 – $33 – $35, Wednesdays at 1:30 pm, Thursdays at 1:30 & 8 pm, Fridays at 8:30 pm, Saturdays at 5 & 8:30 pm, Sundays at 2 & 6 pm, running time is 2 hours, 25 minutes with intermission.

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