Thursday, March 5, 2020

Musical of the Month: Curtains

March just started, so that means a new Musical of the Month! And we've chosen a fun musical that had a respectable run more than a decade ago - Curtains, one of the last collaborations of John Kander and Fred Ebb. We chose it specifically because it is one of theirs that no one really talks about. But if their track record is any indication (looking at you, Cabaret and Chicago), in a few more years it'll get a re-look and become the toast of the town, right?

Plot, Stats and Origins

The Plot
Curtains is an old-fashioned show with a canny modern feel. It's a send-up of old school backstage murder mysteries that were popular in the 1950's. Boston, 1959. The pre-Broadway tryout of Robbin' Hood of the Old West, and it isn't going well. First thing you know, the headlining star - who is horrible on and off stage - is murdered! The suspects are many: her understudy, the director, the people writing the show, her co-stars, the loud-mouthed, abrasive producer...a critic... Enter Lt. Frank Cioffi, a trench coat-wearing, Sam Spade type, who also has a secret - he loves musicals and wants to be in one. Really bad. As the suspects are narrowed down, and Frank closes in, mayhem and musical merriment ensue.

The Stats

  • Previews began at the Al Hirschfeld Theatre on February 27, 2007, with Opening Night on March 22, 2007.
  • The show was nominated for 10 Drama Desk Awards, winning two: Debra Monk (Featured Actress in a Musical) and Rupert Holmes (Book of a Musical).
  • Curtains was nominated for 8 2007 Tony Awards, including Best Musical. It won just one, for David Hyde Pierce's star turn (Best Actor in a Musical).
  • Closing night was June 29, 2008, following 26 previews and 511 performances.

Curtains wasn't just one of Kander and Ebb's final collaboration. It was also the last work of legendary book writer Peter Stone, who conceived the original plot and was working on the book at the time of his death in 2003. Tony-winner Rupert Holmes was brought in to revise/rewrite the book - a good choice given that he wrote another Broadway musical who-done-it, The Mystery of Edwin Drood. Just over a year later, Fred Ebb passed away. The musical continued forward. An out of town tryout in Los Angeles preceded the Broadway run. 

NEXT WEEK: A closer look at the show's creative team.


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