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Curtains at Alexandra Theatre - Review

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by Alison Brinkworth (subscribe)
Freelance journalist in Birmingham with a passion for the dynamic theatre, art, food and fashion scene in Britain's 'Second City'.
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Murder mystery musical starring Jason Manford
How many genres can a show cover? Curtains gives it a good shot as a murder mystery - romantic musical - comedy, but does it work?

Curtains, Alexandra Theatre, Birmingham, Jason Manford, UK tour
Jason Manford headlines in Curtains


Stand-up comedian Jason Manford headlines with the lead role of Lieutenant Frank Cioffi, an amateur dramatic buff who is called in to investigate a murder in a theatre.

He's in his element trying to crack the case as well as fix the troubled musical, being reworked after appalling first-night reviews.

As you can tell, it's an unbelievable storyline but this isn't a show that takes itself too seriously, despite having songs written by Kander and Ebb, who were behind hit musicals like Cabaret and Chicago.

Curtains, Alexandra Theatre, Birmingham, Jason Manford, UK tour
Romance combined with a whodunnit


Set in the 1950's, Curtains is on in Birmingham at Alexandra Theatre for almost a week until Saturday November 9, ahead of a stint in London's West End.

The musical side of Curtains takes precedence over the who-dunnit in the first act, despite a murder within the first five minutes.

It's a throwback to the era of old school stage musicals and although it feels disjointed, the music by John Kander and Fred Ebb are good quality, albeit from a different era.

Curtains, Alexandra Theatre, Birmingham, Jason Manford, UK tour
The musical takes precedence in Curtains


There's gentle comedy throughout but it's Samuel Holmes as the sarcastic director Christopher Belling that stands out as the funniest on stage and, interestingly, not Manford.

Manford's role involves the TV comic playing it much more straight than audiences will have seen him before. Plus he has big song and dance routines with his love interest Niki, played by Leah West.

He does it all well but there's a stark comparison of singing voice and dancing between him and seasoned stage professionals like West as well as former Hollyoaks star Carley Stenson and the hugely impressive Rebecca Lock as the producer of the show Carmen Bernstein.

Curtains, Alexandra Theatre, Birmingham, Jason Manford, UK tour
Jason Manford isn't the funniest person in Curtains


It still works though as Manford's charm as the investigating police office builds up a rapport with the audience.

Those expecting a suspenseful murder mystery will be left disappointed by Act One but stick with it as the second act picks up the pace and has more intrigue and deaths. There's red herrings and a decent big reveal too.

Mixing so many genres together in one show isn't ideal as it dilutes the focus of the plot. That said, strong performances help make this an enjoyable enough musical... Or should that be comedy/who-dunnit.

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Why? See a musical whodunnit with top comedian
When: November 5 to 9, 2019
Phone: 020 7206 1179
Where: Alexandra Theatre, Suffolk Queensway, Birmingham, B5 4DS
Cost: From 13
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