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Curtains (musical)

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Subject: 61st Tony Awards, Megan Sikora, Scott Ellis, Rob Ashford, Point Park University
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Curtains (musical)

Original Broadway Cast Album
Music John Kander
Lyrics Fred Ebb
Book Rupert Holmes
Basis Original book and concept by Peter Stone
Productions 2006 Los Angeles, California
2007 Broadway

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

Based on the original book and concept by Peter Stone, the musical is a send-up of backstage murder mystery plots, set in 1959 Boston, Massachusetts and follows the fallout when 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. The show opened on Broadway to mixed reviews, though several critics praised the libretto and the character of Lieutenant Cioffi, who famed 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 history

Poster for Curtains in Los Angeles

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 I

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 wins the sharp-shooting contest and proposes to Miss Nancy, the schoolmarm. 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 ("Thinking of Him").

Belling then announces his plan: they are going to replace Jessica. Niki, 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 the ensemble 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, who do not want to go on with the show. Carmen unsuccessfully 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 bolster the morale of the cast, and convinces them to do the show ("Show People"). 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 perpetrator is still in the building, Cioffi sequesters it. Sidney Bernstein 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 covering 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 to dance, but is failing miserably despite Bobby's 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. Carmen and Sidney ask him to re-review the show with its 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. 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.

Belling works to re-stage a difficult production number, featuring Niki, Georgia and Bambi, and Cioffi suggests that the song needs to be rewritten ("In The Same Boat #1"). Cioffi is left alone with Aaron, who shows Cioffi that composing a song is difficult. After he lets it slip that he misses something, Aaron confesses that he still loves his ex-wife ("I Miss the Music"). Any doubt that Georgia can carry the show is removed by the dress rehearsal of the big saloon hall number ("Thataway!"). 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 II

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, but he focuses 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 cast members Randy and Harv but 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"). Just then, however, 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 had found out that cast members would use certain people to get higher reviews. 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 flyspace high above the stage. 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 setpiece, 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- Complete")

Cioffi then announces that he and Niki are engaged, and 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 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 takes Niki hostage, 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.

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. 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 "A Tough Act to Follow" has become the new finale of the show.


  • Lieutenant Frank Cioffi: The central character, a Local Boston detective who is also a musical theatre aficionado. Aside from being exceptionally good at his job, he has also aspired to be a musical theatre performer his entire life. He falls in love with Niki.
  • 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.
  • Aaron Fox: The composer of the show-within-the-show. His songwriting partner, Georgia, is also his wife from whom he's separated
  • 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.
  • Christopher Belling: English director.
  • 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 (Bambi is a stage name.)
  • Bobby Pepper: The choreographer and male star of the show within the show, he is Aaron's charming rival and the current boyfriend of Georgia.
  • Daryl Grady: A Theatre critic for the local Boston newspaper, he enjoys using the power he has to make or break shows during their out-of-town tryouts.
  • Sidney Bernstein: The co-producer of an out of town flop. Sidney is tough and self-serving.
  • 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.
  • Randy Dexter: One of the stars of the show within the show.
  • Harv Fremont: One of the stars of the show within the show, Randy's sidekick.
  • Detective O'Farrell: Cioffi's associate from the Boston Police Department, assists in the investigation.
  • Jessica Cranshaw: Fading Hollywood star. A diva, who has no right to be one, she is a terrible singer 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.

Original Broadway principal cast

Other productions

United States

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]

In 2014, the Tommy Award-Winning Wauwatosa East Players of Wauwatosa, WI will present a version of Curtains that is currently uncast. Showtimes are November 14, 15, 16, 21 & 22 at the renowned Dale K. Hidde Theater.


The first European production opened in [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 South Australian Premiere played at the Arts Theatre in June 2010, while the Victorian Premiere was performed by Holiday Actors Inc. in Warrnambool in January 2011.

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

The first UK performance of Curtains was given at the Kenneth More Theatre, Ilford on 11 March 2010. The UK South West première was performed by Nailsea Musicals at the Scotch Horn Centre, Nailsea, Somerset on 10-13 November, 2010. The Northern première will be performed by Hessle Theatre Company[10] in Hull in 2012. The UK East Anglian premiere will be performed by the New Taverham Players[11]from 16th-21st May 2011. The Scottish Premiere will be performed by the Southern Light Opera Company in the Royal Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh on 15th to 19th May 2012. The next UK performance will be made by Mountview Academy of Theatre Arts at the Bernie Grants Arts Centre, October 2014.

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. [12]

The German premiere was at the Landestheater Coburg on 5 November, 2011[13]

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.

Song list

Awards and nominations

Original Broadway production

Year Award Category Nominee Result
2007 Tony Award Best Musical Nominated
Best Book of a Musical Rupert Holmes and Peter Stone Nominated
Best Original Score John Kander, Fred Ebb and Rupert Holmes Nominated
Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Musical David Hyde Pierce Won
Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Musical Debra Monk Nominated
Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Musical Karen Ziemba Nominated
Best Direction of a Musical Scott Ellis Nominated
Best Choreography Rob Ashford Nominated
Drama Desk Award Outstanding Musical Nominated
Outstanding Book of a Musical Rupert Holmes and Peter Stone Won
Outstanding Actor in a Musical David Hyde Pierce Nominated
Outstanding Featured Actress in a Musical Debra Monk Won
Karen Ziemba Nominated
Outstanding Orchestrations William David Brohn Nominated
Outstanding Music John Kander Nominated
Outstanding Lyrics Fred Ebb Nominated
Outstanding Set Design Anna Louizos Nominated
Outstanding Costume Design William Ivey Long Nominated


  1. ^ The Journal News
  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. ^ Hessle Theatre Company
  11. ^ New Taverham Players
  12. ^ [3]
  13. ^ [4]
  • New York Post article with production history

External links

  • Internet Broadway Database listing
  • "'Curtains' at the DHP website
  • @ Musical CyberspaceCurtains
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