Theatre Review – Curtains at the Regent

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A whodunnit that’s also a comedy and a musical? That’s like eating a plate covered with roast beef, fish and chips and curry isn’t it? That surely won’t work?!

But in Curtains – which opened at the Regent Theatre in Hanley last night – you can bet your bottom dollar that this unlikely mish-mash of genres will send you home with a heart full of joy.

Created by John Kander and Fred Ebb – who collaborated to bring the smash hits Cabaret and Chicago to our stages – this is the production by Paul Foster that tells the tale of Lieutenant Frank Cioffi who arrives at the theatre to investigate the murder of the hugely untalented Jessica Cranshaw. As a musical theatre buff Cioffi also wants to turn around the fortunes of the flop production of Robbin’ Hood of the Old West. And if the Boston Massachusetts cop can find love on the way then so much the better.

Let me say first off that you probably won’t leave the theatre humming the score. For me there were no stand out musical hits in this libretto. Instead you will leave with the warm glow of a thoroughly pleasant evening of music where the talented cast has entertained throughout with some excellent vocal performances.

What will live long in your memory, though, is the beautiful staging and top-class choreography from Alistair David. Show People is the first slice of action to catch the eye while Thataway is a rousing finale to Act 1. I just loved the staging of He Did It but the choreographic hit of the evening was the final version of In the Same Boat. This transported the audience back to the classic musicals cherished by all lovers of musical theatre. There is so much going on that your eyes are doing somersaults to catch all the movement on stage.

In such a rousing production it is difficult to single individual performers out for praise. Each and every performer contributed to the enjoyment of the evening and I thank them all for their contributions. The casting agents did a brilliant job.

Emma Caffrey presented her undoubted dancing talents and did a good portrayal of dizzy blonde Bambi; Leah Barbara West showed her all-round abilities as wannabe Niki; Samuel Holmes had just the right amount of campness to portray Christopher while delivering his gags in style.

Rebecca Lock was another actor who delivered the laughs with aplomb while bringing all of her experience in musical theatre to her role as Carmen. Andy Coxon is superb as the lovelorn Aaron and Carley Stenson has put her days in Hollyoaks well behind her in a performance as love interest Georgia that suggested she has a bright future in musical theatre.

No doubt many in the audience will have been attracted by the name of Jason Manford in the lead role of Frank Cioffi. And they will not have been disappointed. He stepped into his part as though it had been created especially for him, playing it with the sincerity and energy that made the audience believe in his characterisation. He made everything seem effortless and was able to show the talents of the all-round performer that he is becoming. He has a wonderful rapport with the audience and seemed genuinely moved by the standing ovation that he accepted from the packed audience on the company’s behalf.

What Kind of Man pokes fun at theatre critics and how they can destroy lives. I am sure that reviews of this performance can only enhance reputations and not destroy them. Many thanks for a five-star experience.

The show has a running time of 2 hours 45 minutes including interval

Curtains runs until December 7th. Contact atgtickets.com/stoke for ticketing details