CURTAINS is the Kander and Ebb musical whodunit set in Boston which curiously did not play here originally. You probably know about it because it starred David Hyde Pierce (FRASIER) and Debra Monk (NYPD BLUE). I satisfied my curiosity last night at the Newton Country Players’ version (through August 14th), directed by Bill Doscher – and Doscher knows his way around musical comedy so the laughs are solid and the leads are strong, especially Nathan Lamont and Mary O’Donnell in the Pierce/Monk roles.
Lamont saunters blissfully on stage as the police detective (with a song in his heart, of course) dispatched to investigate the murder of a nasty leading lady on the opening night of a new musical. As you might imagine, the suspects are legion. Kander and Ebb spoof a number of musicals in CURTAINS, sending up OKLAHOMA with their “new” musical set in Kansas…and ripping Cole Porter’s theater anthem, There’s No Business Like Show Business, with a fabulous volley called It’s A Business (gloriously nailed by O’Donnell). And they strike a blow for show folk everywhere with a deliciously sardonic What Kind of Man [becomes a critic?].
Mostly, though, CURTAINS’ book (by Rupert Holmes) misses its mark, bogging down in too many iterations of the show within the show. To Doscher’s credit, his cast makes it fly, chiefly because of Chrissy Lamont as the vamp who sizzles in Thataway, a real Kander and Ebb foot thumper…and Laura Espy’s inventive choreography, most delightful when Erin Beaber as the ingénue “teaches” Lamont to dance: hop-step-step. The policeman awkwardly (and hilariously) plods through her instructions, then in two seconds, hoofs like a pro! Once he’s had a taste of the limelight, he even takes over rehearsals from the wonderfully conceited director (David Lucey). What an arresting guy!