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Curtains (musical)

Curtains is a musical mystery comedy with a book by Rupert Holmes, lyrics by Fred Ebb, and music by John Kander, with additional lyrics by Kander and Holmes.

Curtains david a.JPG
Original Broadway Cast Album
MusicJohn Kander
LyricsFred Ebb
John Kander (additional lyrics)
Rupert Holmes (additional lyrics)
BookRupert Holmes
by Peter Stone
Productions2006 Los Angeles, California
2007 Broadway
2009 Visby
2010 U.S. Tour
2011 Prague
2011 Coburg
2012 London
2012 Toronto
2014 Abu Dhabi
2016 Melbourne
2019/20 UK Tour
2019 West End
2019 Pforzheim
AwardsDrama Desk Award for Outstanding Book of a Musical

Based on the original book and concept of the same name by Peter Stone, the musical is a send-up of backstage murder mystery plots, set in 1959 Boston, Massachusetts and follows the fallout when Jessica Cranshaw, the supremely untalented star of Robbin' Hood of the Old West is murdered during her opening night curtain call. It is up to Lt. Frank Cioffi, a police detective who moonlights as a musical theater fan to save the show, solve the case, and maybe even find love before the show reopens, without getting killed himself. Cioffi also dreams of being in musical theater. The show opened on Broadway to mixed reviews, though several critics praised the libretto and the character of Lieutenant Cioffi, who critic Ben Brantley called "the best damn musical theatre character since Mama Rose in 'Gypsy', and the best role of David Hyde Pierce's career."

Production HistoryEdit

Stone died in April 2003, leaving the book unfinished, and Holmes was hired to rewrite it.[1] Ebb also died before the musical was completed. Curtains had its world premiere on July 25, 2006 at the Ahmanson Theatre in Los Angeles. Local reviews were mixed but not discouraging,[2] and the producers decided to transfer the show to Broadway with minor alterations.

The production, directed by Scott Ellis and choreographed by Rob Ashford, opened on Broadway on March 22, 2007 at the Al Hirschfeld Theatre. The cast included David Hyde Pierce, Debra Monk, Karen Ziemba, Edward Hibbert, Jason Danieley, Noah Racey, Jill Paice, Megan Sikora, Michael X. Martin, Michael McCormick, and John Bolton reprising the roles they played in Los Angeles, as well as new cast member Ernie Sabella. The musical garnered eight Tony Award nominations, with Hyde Pierce winning the award for Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Musical. Curtains closed on June 29, 2008 after 511 performances and twenty-three previews.[3]

The musical received mixed reviews on Broadway, with Ben Brantley writing in The New York Times: "David Hyde Pierce...steps into full-fledged Broadway stardom with his performance here...Perhaps this 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."[4]

Clive Barnes wrote in the New York Post: "Part of the trouble was director Scott Ellis' failure to italicize sufficiently the inside comedy, but there probably wasn't much he could do. The choreography by Rob Ashford was unnoticeable, the scenery by Anna Louizos uninterestingly ugly, while William Ivey Long unwisely saved his best and funniest costumes for the curtain calls. Through all this farrago, Hyde Pierce moved (or, in that curtain call, "rode") with unshatterable aplomb - taking the basically comic concept of a tough plainclothes detective as a musical comedy queen, and running with it just as far, and even a bit beyond, as the material could take it.[5]


Act IEdit

It is 1959 at the Colonial Theatre in Boston, where a new musical called "Robbin' Hood!", a western version of Robin Hood, is reaching its conclusion ("Wide Open Spaces"). Madame Marian, played by faded film star diva Jessica Cranshaw, looks on as Robin Hood played by Bobby Pepper, wins the sharp-shooting contest and proposes to Miss Nancy, the schoolmarm, played by Niki Harris. The cast then sings the finale of the show, during which it is clear that Jessica can neither sing, dance, nor act. She takes her bow and, after receiving two bouquets, collapses behind the curtain.

Later that night, Carmen Bernstein, a hard-bitten lady co-producer, divorced songwriting team Aaron Fox and Georgia Hendricks, and the show's financial backer, Oscar Shapiro, read the reviews, most of which are terrible, especially the Boston Globe's, which is the review they needed; the only good review comes from the Cambridge Patriot. No one believes that anyone would be heartless enough to become a critic ("What Kind of Man"). The show's flamboyant British director, Christopher Belling, arrives, saying that he had an epiphany after walking into a church. Just then, stage manager Johnny tells Carmen that there is a phone call for her. Carmen suspects that it's her philandering husband Sidney. Meanwhile, Georgia and Aaron get into an argument about why Georgia joined the show. Aaron claims that she only wanted to rekindle a romance with choreographer Bobby, the actor playing Rob Hood and Georgia's ex-boyfriend. Everyone is pessimistic, but Belling asks Georgia to sing Madame Marian's opening number. She does so spectacularly, and it is clear that she is thinking about her failed marriage with Aaron. Aaron begins to sing with her, but Bobby cuts him off and they finish the number together. ("Thinking of Him").

Belling then announces his plan: they are going to replace Jessica. Niki Harris, the schoolmarm and Jessica's understudy, steps forward and says she would feel terrible taking over, but Belling goes on to say that he is actually casting Georgia as Madame Marian. Bambi, the show's featured dancer, steps forward and says that Niki should get the role, but Belling sees right through her: Bambi is Niki's understudy, meaning if Niki got the lead, she'd get to play Miss Nancy. Georgia is cast, in spite of Aaron's disapproval.

Carmen then enters and tells everyone that it was the hospital that had called. Jessica Cranshaw is dead. The cast performs a mock funeral, and it is clear that no one is sorry to see their leading lady gone ("The Woman's Dead"). Lt. Frank Cioffi of the Boston Police Department arrives to announce that he had seen the show and loved it (except for Cranshaw), and then reveals that Jessica Cranshaw was murdered.

Cioffi tells Belling to finish up what he was doing with the cast. The ensemble tries to leave, saying that they want to quit the show. Carmen tries to convince them that "the show must go on", and various members of the ensemble stand up to her, including Bambi, who is actually named Elaine and is Carmen's daughter. Cioffi, an amateur performer himself, enthusiastically helps her convince them to do the show, and realize how lucky they are to be actors/actresses("Show People"). It works and Carmen decides to treat everyone to a drink at the local bar. However, since Cranshaw was poisoned in the last minutes of the show and never left the stage thereafter, Cioffi believes that she must have been murdered by a member of the company. Also believing that the murderer is still in the building, Cioffi sequesters the building and won't let anyone leave. Sidney Bernstein, Carmen's husband, arrives from New York, and Cioffi begins to suspect him, although Sidney claims to have been with a certain woman whose name he refuses to give.

Cioffi is left alone with the winsome Niki, who is now the understudy for Georgia. The lieutenant is struck by Niki's charm and confides in her about his investigation and his lonely life, as he is married to his job ("Coffee Shop Nights"). She seems to return his affection, so he hopes she is not the murderer. The next day, Georgia attempts to learn a dance from the show, but is failing miserably despite Bobby's constant belief in her. Cioffi arrives and soon meets Daryl Grady, the critic who wrote the terrible review for the Boston Globe, only praising the choreography and Niki's performance. Cioffi asks him how he got inside the theater and Grady points out that, as a member of the press, he's exempt from the quarantine. Carmen and Sidney called him in to ask him to re-review the show with Georgia as the new lead, and he decides that he will re-review the show, tomorrow. They reluctantly agree before Niki tries to thank Daryl for his kind words about her. He tells her that he doesn't associate with the artists he reviews, and, after having an argument with Cioffi about his previous review of "Robbin' Hood", leaves. Bobby, Belling, and Georgia enter, enraged with the fact that they have so little time to prepare for a review.

Belling works to re-stage a difficult production number, featuring Niki, Georgia and Bambi. Cioffi suggests that the song needs to be rewritten ("In The Same Boat #1"). Cioffi is left alone with Aaron, who shows Cioffi the process for composing a song. After he lets it slip that he misses something, Aaron confesses that he still loves his ex-wife ("I Miss the Music"). Georgia and the cast dress rehearse the big saloon hall number ("Thataway!"). Georgia pulls it off spectacularly and everyone believes they have a shot of putting on a great show. Cioffi then comes on and tells the cast that he has figured out that Sidney has been blackmailing every member of the show into working for him. While the cast is relieved that they no longer need to be blackmailed, Cioffi reminds them they're still suspects and that they should continue with the show. Tragedy soon strikes again as the curtain is rung down, as Sidney Bernstein is simultaneously rung up, with the curtain rope tied around his neck.

Act IIEdit

Sasha, the conductor, turns to the audience to reveal that the hanging was fatal ("The Man is Dead"). A makeshift dormitory has been set up on the stage of the still-sequestered Colonial Theatre. Each member of the company suspects the others in the middle of the night ("He Did It"). Cioffi returns from the coroner's office and tells everyone Sid was knocked out before being tied to the rope, so everyone is still a suspect, but he focuses more on whether the show will be ready for its re-opening. When a death threat for Sidney is found, stating he will die unless he closes the show, Oscar reveals Sidney died for nothing as he was going to comply. He even gave Oscar back the last check he made out. Carmen takes it back, saying she is going to keep the show open. Aaron previews his new version of "In the Same Boat" featuring Bobby and two ensemble cast members, Randy and Harv. Cioffi is not yet satisfied with the product and has other advice for the show's creators ("In The Same Boat # 2").

Bambi asks that a pas de deux be added for herself and Bobby. Carmen agrees, but she is no stage mother: her duty is to the box office ("It’s a Business"). Grady then comes in and tells everyone that he's taking interviews from the cast in the Green Room. Bambi does well at the rehearsal of the re-staged square dance number ("Kansasland"). However, towards the end of the dance a shot rings out from offstage, and Bobby is wounded in the arm, although Cioffi soon figures out that Carmen was actually the target. Niki comes forward with the gun, and the company immediately jumps to the conclusion that she is guilty ("She Did It" (Reprise)). She says that she innocently found the gun backstage and hands it over, albeit after she accidentally pulls the trigger and almost hits Cioffi.

As Cioffi works on solving the case, he tells Aaron, Georgia, and Bobby that Sidney had nothing on them and yet they were still working for very little money. Georgia then quotes a death threat which Cioffi hadn't read out loud. Cioffi is about to arrest her when Aaron attempts to takes the blame for her, reviving their romance. ("Thinking of Him/I Miss the Music" (Reprise)). After Aaron leaves it is revealed that it was all an act, and that Bobby had only been pretending to be Georgia's boyfriend so that she could see if she could stir anything in them. She leaves, and Bobby confesses that he does love Georgia, and that he would do anything for her, even commit murder.

Niki laments how love makes people feel bad, but Cioffi begins flirting with her and reminisces about the first time he saw her on stage, and how he thought that he could be her perfect partner; in an elaborate fantasy sequence, he becomes just that ("A Tough Act to Follow"). But he realizes that she has a secret. He also tells Niki that some cast members were using certain people to get higher ratings, and in Sidney's book where he had coded memos for the casts' blackmails, there was an O next to her name. Stage manager Johnny knows the secret, but won't tell the detective what it is. He is shot and killed before he can reveal any more. He tears out a page from his notebook saying "Drop in Planet Earth".

Cioffi takes Niki and Belling up to the theater's catwalk high above the stage as the cast rehearses a third version of "In the Same Boat" below. He announces that he's solved the mystery. Left alone, he is hit with a sandbag and is sent tumbling down. He narrowly escapes death by clutching onto a prop, which lowers him to safety. When on the ground, he exclaims that he has solved it...he knows how to best stage "In the Same Boat". Putting together all of the versions, the cast is able to sing an incredible number ("In The Same Boat- Completed")

With the number completed, Cioffi tells Nikki he has a plan to solve the murder and then announces that he and Niki are engaged. He then asks the cast to re-stage the bows, when Jessica was murdered, and they notice that Georgia is only being offered one bouquet, not two. Cioffi figures out that the murderer hid a pellet gun with a poison capsule inside a bouquet, disguised as an usher, and killed Jessica. Bobby suddenly comes on stage with a bloody head and collapses, and everyone realizes that the masked Rob Hood standing on stage is a fake.

Cioffi then announces that the O and the "Drop in Planet earth" both represented a globe: The Boston Globe. He finally solves the case: the murderer is the Boston Globe critic, Daryl Grady. Grady then takes off the mask and reveals that he is in love with Niki and did not want her to move away to New York, so he decided he would do anything to stop the show. Grady then holds a knife to Niki's neck, threatening to kill her so that Cioffi can't marry her. He tells Cioffi to give him his gun, but when Grady tries to shoot Cioffi he realizes that the gun has no bullets inside. He is foiled when Cioffi takes another gun from his jacket and Carmen pulls the trapdoor on him. Cioffi's colleague Detective O'Farrell takes him into custody and the production is relieved the murder is finally solved.

After everyone returns backstage to prepare for the reopening. Cioffi privately confronts Carmen: she killed Sidney. Carmen has been secretly acting on behalf of Bambi while pretending to be unsupportive so Bambi would have to work to get ahead rather than rely on nepotism. So she had always belittled Bambi in public so nobody but Carmen would know that she was supporting her daughter. She wants her daughter Bambi to move on to Broadway, but Sidney was going to close the show. Cioffi agrees to give her until after the show's Broadway opening to turn herself in, and tells her that, with the right lawyer, she could easily be acquitted of what is surely justifiable homicide. Carmen tells Cioffi that he's one of them ("Show People" (Reprise)) Belling comes on and tells them that with Bobby's injury, he may not be ready for the performance.

Finally, the show reopens. Georgia is now Madame Marian, Cioffi has replaced Bobby as Rob Hood, and "Tough Act to Follow" has become the new finale of the show.

Lead CharactersEdit

  • Lieutenant Frank Cioffi: The central character, a Local Boston detective who is also very interested in musical theatre. Aside from being exceptionally good at his job, he has also aspired to be a musical theatre performer. He falls in love with Niki and they get engaged.
  • Niki Harris: Pretty, naïve ingénue. Niki is playing a supporting role and is Jessica Cranshaw's understudy in the show-within-the-show during its Boston tryout. She is eager to make her Broadway debut. She meets and falls in love with Detective Frank Cioffi, who is investigating a murder at the theatre.
  • Georgia Hendricks: Female half of songwriting team. Ends up taking on the leading lady role of the show-within-the-show.
  • Carmen Bernstein: The show's brassy producer, unhappily married to Sidney and Bambi's estranged mother. Highly comical role with a belt voice. Carmen had always belittled Bambi in public, but for a nice reason.
  • Aaron Fox: The composer of the show-within-the-show. His songwriting partner, Georgia, is also his ex-wife from whom he's separated but still loves
  • Bobby Pepper: The choreographer and male star of the show within the show. A handsome Gene Kelly type who is the one shining star in an otherwise dire show. He is Aaron's charming rival and the current boyfriend of Georgia. A strong singer and even stronger dancer.
  • Christopher Belling: English director. Camp and funny.
  • Bambi Bernét: Performer in the chorus and daughter of Carmen, the lead producer. Hungry to work her way up to leading performer; she has a contentious relationship with her mother, who insists on calling her by her real name, Elaine. She changed her name to Bambi because in the Disney movie, hunters kill Bambi's mother.
  • Daryl Grady: A theatre critic for the local Boston newspaper, the Boston Globe. He enjoys using the power he has to make or break shows during their out-of-town tryouts.
  • Johnny Harmon: The Stage Manager of the show-within-the-show. Johnny is gruff but lovable. He keeps the company in line and on their toes throughout the rehearsal process.
  • Oscar Shapiro: The general manager and sole investor. An agreeable if slightly gruff man. He is always looking for any angle to find money.
  • Sidney Bernstein: The co-producer of an out of town flop. Sidney is tough and self-serving.
  • Jessica Cranshaw: Fading Hollywood star. A diva, who has no right to be one, she is a terrible singer, dancer and actress who stars in the show within a show and is murdered on its opening night.
  • Sasha Iljinsky: The European conductor of the show within the show; played by the orchestra's actual conductor.
  • Randy Dexter: One of the male ensemble actors of the show within the show.
  • Harv Fremont: One of the male ensemble actors of the show within the show, Randy's sidekick.
  • Detective O'Farrell: Cioffi's associate from the Boston Police Department, assists in the investigation.

Original Broadway Principal CastEdit

Character Original Broadway Cast Original UK/West End Cast
Lieutenant Frank Cioffi David Hyde Pierce Jason Manford
Niki Harris Jill Paice Leah Barbara West
Carmen Bernstein Debra Monk Rebecca Lock
Georgia Hendricks Karen Ziemba Carley Stenson
Aaron Fox Jason Danieley Ore Oduba/Andy Coxon
Christopher Belling Edward Hibbert Samuel Holmes
Bobby Pepper Noah Racey Alan Burkitt
Bambi Bernét Megan Sikora Emma Caffrey
Oscar Shapiro Michael McCormick Martin Callaghan
Johnny Harmon Michael X. Martin Minal Patel
Daryl Grady John Bolton Adam Rhys-Charles
Sidney Bernstein Ernie Sabella Mark Sangster
Jessica Cranshaw Patty Goble Nia Jermin
Detective O'Farrell Kevin Bernard Thomas Lee-Kid
Randy Jim Newman J.R. Ballantyne
Harv Matt Farnsworth Samuel John-Humphreys

Other productionsEdit

United StatesEdit

A U.S. tour of Curtains was scheduled to start in a limited engagement beginning in March 2010, according to Avid Touring Group.[6][7]

The New England premiere of Curtains opened August 13, 2010, for five shows only, at the Haskell Opera House in Derby Line, Vermont/Stanstead, Quebec. The show was performed by QNEK Productions, the resident theatre company at the Haskell Opera House.[8]


The first European production opened in Visby, Sweden in April 2009. Produced and directed by Sofia Ahlin Schwanbohm, the cast featured Fredrik Wahlgren (Lt. Frank Cioffi), Clara Strauch (Carmen Bernstein), Ingrid Zerpe as (Georgia Hendricks), and Vilhelm Blomgren as (Aaron Fox).[9]

The Australian premiere of Curtains was held on February 12, 2010 at Spotlight Theatre on the Gold Coast, and ran for four weeks.

The first UK performance of Curtains was given at the Kenneth More Theatre, Ilford on 11 March 2010. The first UK Professional production of the show was at the Landor Theatre in London. The show opened to previews on July 25, 2012, before opening officially on July 30, 2012. The show ran until September 1. [5] The production received positive reviews with Paul Vale from the Stage writing, "this is a traditional musical comedy that despite some minor flaws, throws out plenty of laugh out loud one-liners and some great tunes" [6] The Scottish Premiere was performed by the Southern Light Opera Company in the Royal Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh on 15 to 19 May 2012.

The New Zealand premiere of Curtains was performed at Porirua Little Theatre, Wellington on the 8th of April 2010 and the musical ran for four weeks.

The Irish premiere of 'Curtains' was performed by 'Clara Musical Society' to mark their 40th year. The performances ran April 5 to 9, 2011 at 'The GAA social Centre', River Street, Clara, Co. Offaly.

The Czech premiere was at Musical theatre Karlin (Hudební divadlo Karlín) on 22 September 2011, opening to mostly positive reviews. Creative team included director Antonín Procházka, translator Adam Novák, designers Michalea Hořejší and Aleš Valášek and choreographer Pavel Strouhal.[10]

The German premiere was at the Landestheater Coburg on 5 November 2011[11]

The Canadian premiere was performed by No Strings Theatre Company with a run from July 26 to the 29, 2012 at 'The Al Green Theatre', Toronto.

In 2016, The Production Company mounted a professional production staged at the Melbourne Arts Centre in Australia. The cast included Simon Gleeson as Frank Cioffi, Alinta Chidzey as Niki Harris, Colin Lane as Christopher Belling, Lucy Maunder and Alex Rathgeber as Georgia Hendricks and Aaron Fox, and John Wood as Sidney Bernstein[12][13].

A UK tour began at the Churchill Theatre, Bromley in October 2019 starring Jason Manford as Frank Cioffi, Carley Stenson as Georgia Hendricks, Ore Oduba (alternating venues with Andy Coxon) as Aaron Fox and Rebecca Lock as Carmen Bernstein and directed by Paul Foster.[14] The production will transfer to the Wyndham's Theatre in London's West End featuring the touring cast (with the exception of Oduba being replaced by Coxon as Aaron Fox) from December 13, 2019 until January 13, 2020 before resuming the UK tour until spring 2020.[15]

Song ListEdit

Awards and nominationsEdit


  1. ^ The Journal News Archived 2007-09-30 at the Wayback Machine
  2. ^ Did L.A. Critics Think Kander & Ebb's Curtains Was Ready for Broadway?
  3. ^ Jones, Kenneth."It's Curtains for Curtains; Murder Mystery Musical Will Close June 29",, March 19, 2008
  4. ^ Brantley, Ben. "Stagestruck Sleuth, Crazy for Clues and Cues", The New York Times, March 23, 2007, SectionE, p.1
  5. ^ Barnes, Clive."'Curtains' Not A Draw" New York Post, March 23, 2007
  6. ^ Jones, Kenneth."Curtains Will Tour in Fall 2009",, May 21, 2008
  7. ^ tour information
  8. ^ [1]
  9. ^ [2]
  10. ^ [3]
  11. ^ [4]
  12. ^
  13. ^
  14. ^ "Curtains – A comedy musical whodunnit". Retrieved 2019-02-26.
  15. ^ Meyer, Dan. "John Kander and Fred Ebb’s 'Curtains' Set to Rise in a West End Debut" Playbill, November 1, 2019

External linksEdit