The Internet Theater Magazine of Reviews, Features, Annotated Listings







Etcetera and
Short Term Listings


NYC Restaurants


New Jersey







Free Updates
Writing for Us




A CurtainUp New Jersey Review

Could I ask, only because
I've wondered this my entire life--which would normally come first,
the music or the lyric?
— Cioffi

Same answer as the chicken or the egg.

— Aaron

Ah, so it's the lyric. — Cioffi
Robert Newman and Kim Zimmer (Photo: Bruce Bennett)
When Curtains opened on Broadway in 2007, it offered further if not yet final proof that musical collaborators John Kander (music) Fred Ebb (lyrics) were considered among the titans of American musical theater. Although Ebb had died prior to the opening, their previous musical collaboration The Scottsboro Boys had to wait until 2010 to make it to Broadway for a shorter than expected run. Just as The Scottsboro Boys has its champions and admirers who will insure it has a life beyond Broadway, the totally non-controversial Curtains is back in a bright and zany production at the Paper Mill Playhouse (in association with Theatre Under The Stars, Houston, Texas.)

Curtains has its flaws, but they fall by the wayside in the light of this particularly lively staging and the exuberant performances that make if fun and funny from curtain-up to curtain-down. Consider this a brazenly defiant throwback to the gags and guffaws-filled musical comedies that dominated Broadway before Broadway musicals began to take themselves seriously. It's is a murder-mystery musical comedy that offers no apologies for its preposterous pretensions.

Although it could just as easily been set in 1937, Curtains is set in 1959 within the confines of the Colonial Theatre in Boston (marvelously evoked by set designer Robert Andrew Kovach) during the out-of-town tryout of a new musical. It is to be enjoyed solely from for its ageless perspective. We unequivocally accept this delightful back-stage diversion on its own terms and let the murders begin.

Although Robert Newman and Kim Zimmer, both known for their roles in the long-running TV soap opera Guiding Light get above the title billing, this is an ensemble show relying to a large extent on the wonderful supporting cast to keep the show hopping even when there's a dead body a hanging. Newman appears to be having a swell time cavorting amiably as Lieutenant Frank Cioffi, a Boston police detective who not only wants to solve a growing number of back-stage murders, but he is also not adverse to offering suggestions on how to fix up the floundering show Robbin Hood, a no apologies send-up of Oklahoma. As Cioffi, Newman learns the time-step with as much ease has he shows his affection for show people. He is particularly endearing in a solo "Coffee Shop Nights." Amanda Rose is beguiling as Niki Harris, the lovely to look at and listen-to ingénue who becomes Cioffi's love interest and dancing partner in a delightful fantasy number.

It's easy to love the zaftig Zimmer as she puts a real Merman-esque dent in the role of Carmen Bernstein, the loud, pushy battleaxe of a producer who fronts the show's two obligatory and well calculated show-stoppers "Show People" and "It's a Business." Once you see how Zimmer takes charge of her nearly mutinous company, you know that a murder or two or three isn't going to keep her show from making its way to New York.

The show opens amusingly enough with the final scene, Robbin Hood. Jessica Cranshaw (Happy McPartlin) the talent-challenged leading lady is screwing up her lines and desecrating a hoot of a dance number "Wide Open Spaces, " only to pass out during the curtain calls. Oh, dear, she's been murdered. The show's company is confined to the theater until the investigation is completed insuring that everyone becomes a suspect and possibly the next target for the murderer.

Among those whose motives become more apparent with each contrived scene is Christopher Belling (Ed Dixon,) the self-enamored grandly affected director who's every utterance and attitude is geared to generate a laugh. To Dixon's credit, he delivers his one-liners with haughty aplomb. If he hated the leading lady so does Georgia Hendricks (a vivacious Helen Anker,) the show's lyricist who is instantly recruited to replace Jessica. Her hot and cold relationship with Aaron (Kevin Kern,) her ex-husband and composing partner thickens the plot.

It takes a long time for the plot, as devised by Rupert Holmes (based on the original book and concept by Peter Stone,) to boil (actually parboil.) The Kander and Ebb score is mostly refreshing and bright, but it takes patience until a really terrific song surfaces composed by Kander in part as a tribute his late partner. It may not rank high in the canon, but when you hear the melodic and heartfelt "I Miss the Music" as beautifully sung by the ingratiating Kern, you can't help but think of the loss that Kander felt. Other songs aspire, but do not always exceed the standard musical vocabulary in which Kander and Ebb excelled.

You will need a winking eye to appreciate the deliriously corny choreography created anew by Joann M. Hunter especially in the shows two big acrobatically-enhanced ensemble numbers "Kansasland" and "In the Same Boat #2."Standout within the ensemble is Anne Horak who plays Bambi the producer's talented but constantly demeaned daughter. But you can really depend upon the entire company, under the spirited direction of Mark S. Hoebee, to collectively keep you laughing and applauding. By the end of the show when the entire company is reprising "A Tough Act to Follow,"you'll know what that means.

Just as the company of Robbin Hood is determined that their show become a hit despite the odds, the Curtain company is betting on you having a fine time watching someone get away with murder . . . to music.

For Curtainup's review of the show when it opened on Broadway which also includes a review of the California premiere and a song list. go here.
Book by Rupert Holmes
Music by John Kander
Lyrics by Fred Ebb
Original Book and Concept by Peter Stone
Additional Lyrics by John Kander and Rupert Holmes

Cast: Robert Newman (Lieutenant Frank Cioffi), Kim Zimmer (Carmen Bernstein), Amanda Rose (Niki Harris), Helen Anker (Geogia Hendricks), Kevin Kern (Aaron Fox), Ed Dixon (Christopher Belling), Aaron Galligan-Stierle (Daryl Grady), Rye Mullis (Johnny Harmon), Dick Decareau (Oscar Shapiro), David Elder (Bobby Pepper), Anne Horak (Bambi Bernet), Daniel Marcus (Sidney Bernstein), Tom Helm (Sasha Lljinsky), Happy McPartlin (Jessica Cranshaw), Ian Liberto (Randy Dexter), Joshua James Campbell ( Harv Gremont), Colin Bradbury (Detective O'Farrell).
Scenic Design: Robert Andrew Kovach
Costume Design: Tracy Christensen
Lighting Design: Charlie Morrison
Sound Design: Randy Hansen
Music Director Tom Helm
Choreography: Joann M. Hunter
Running Time: 2 hours 50 minutes including intermission
Paper Mill Playhouse, Brookside Drive, Millburn, NJ
(973) 376 - 4343
Tickets ($25.00 - $92.00)
Performances: Wednesdays at 7:30 PM, Thursdays at 1:30 PM, Fridays at 8 PM, Saturdays at 1:30 PM and 8 PM and Sundays at 1:30 PM and 7 PM.
Opened 05/01/11
Closes 05/22/11
Review by Simon Saltzman based on performance 05/01/11
Subscribe to our FREE email updates with a note from editor Elyse Sommer about additions to the website -- with main page hot links to the latest features posted at our numerous locations. To subscribe, E-mail:
put SUBSCRIBE CURTAINUP EMAIL UPDATE in the subject line and your full name and email address in the body of the message -- if you can spare a minute, tell us how you came to CurtainUp and from what part of the country.

Visit Curtainup's Blog Annex
For a feed to reviews and features as they are posted add to your reader
Visit Curtainup's Blog Annex
You can also contact us at Curtainup at Facebook . . . Curtainup at Twitter

Highlight one of the responses below and click "copy" or"CTRL+C"
  • I agree with the review of Curtains
  • I disagree with the review of Curtains
  • The review made me eager to see Curtains
Click on the address link E-mail:
Paste the highlighted text into the subject line (CTRL+ V):

>Feel free to add detailed comments in the body of the email and state if you'd like your comments published in our letters section. . .also the names and emails of any friends to whom you'd like us to forward a copy of this review.

You can also contact us at Curtainup at Facebook or Curtainup at Twitter and Curtainup's Blog Annex
Slings & Arrows  cover of  new Blu-Ray cover
Slings & Arrows-the complete set

You don't have to be a Shakespeare aficionado to love all 21 episodes of this hilarious and moving Canadian TV series about a fictional Shakespeare Company


©Copyright 2011, Elyse Sommer.
Information from this site may not be reproduced in print or online without specific permission from