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Curtains, Norwich Theatre Royal review: Jason Manford gives delightful lead performance

PUBLISHED: 10:36 13 February 2020 | UPDATED: 10:42 13 February 2020

Jason Manford in Curtains The Musical which is running at Norwich Theatre Royal until Saturday Credit: Richard Davenport

Jason Manford in Curtains The Musical which is running at Norwich Theatre Royal until Saturday Credit: Richard Davenport

The Other Richard

Fans of John Kander and Fred Ebb will flock to The Theatre Royal, Norwich this week to catch the latest production of the American songwriting duo's lesser-known, whimsical 2006 Broadway murder mystery musical, Curtains.

The cast of Curtains the Musical Credit: Richard DavenportThe cast of Curtains the Musical Credit: Richard Davenport

Jason Manford plays lonely, show-tune loving detective lieutenant Frank Cioffi who places the cast of a failing Boston theatre production on lockdown when its lead star, the much-hated Jessica Cranshaw (Nia Jermin), is murdered after her curtain call.

More than a hint of Agatha Christie's Murder on the Orient Express runs through the mystery as Cioffi interrogates the disparate cast and crew, digging up uncomfortable truths and hidden secrets buried in the closed confines of the theatre.

There is much humour in the child-like glee with which the detective begins to take control of the stage show, much to the chagrin of the play's director Christopher Belling (Samuel Holmes), almost ignoring the crime completely in favour of pursuing his dream of a career on the stage.

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Carley Stenson as Georgia Hendricks, Ore Oduba as Aaron Fox, Martin Callaghan as Oscar Shapiro and Rebecca Lock as Carmen Bernstein in Curtains the Musical Credit: Richard DavenportCarley Stenson as Georgia Hendricks, Ore Oduba as Aaron Fox, Martin Callaghan as Oscar Shapiro and Rebecca Lock as Carmen Bernstein in Curtains the Musical Credit: Richard Davenport

Director Paul Foster and choreographer Alistair David display real visual flair and ingenuity throughout, especially through the music and dance numbers of the theatre's over-the-top production of a Western inspired take on Robin Hood - "Thataway" and "Wide Open Spaces" are particularly well-mounted set-pieces.

The attention to detail is also impressive, with David Woodhead's set design and Gabriella Slade's costumes giving the murder mystery a strong sense of time and place and providing the show-stopping song and dance pieces with eye-catching vibrancy.

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If there is fault to be found it is that the second act's climactic finale is a little disappointing as it falls prey to the clichéd, somewhat predictable end that befalls so many whodunits.

However, this is a minor quibble and easy to forgive thanks in part to a delightful lead performance. Manford, best known for his stand-up material, delivers a turn of such humour, charm and ebullience that is impossible not to enjoy.

Curtains plays at Norwich Theatre Royal until Saturday, February 15. To book tickets visit norwichtheatre.org or call 01603 630 000.

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