Review by Willard Manus

The last work by John Kander and Fred Ebb, the team responsible for Cabaret and Chicago, CURTAINS is a backstage musical that has been described as Agatha Christie meets Mel Brooks. Now in a pre-Broadway run at the Ahmanson Theatre, the show stars David Hyde Pierce as Lt. Frank Cioffi, a detective investigating the murder of one of the stars of Robbin' Hood, a corny musical on trial in Boston. Pierce is not only an inept cop but a theatre buff who loves to give notes to the director of Robbin' Hood.

Peter Stone's original book has been rewritten by Rupert Holmes, who also reworked the late Ebb's lyrics. The result is a show that's more fluff than substance, a throwback to the lighthearted, escapist musicals of the 20s and 30s (such as Robbin' Hood, of course). Some easy targets are satirized: the internecine squabbles between actors and crew, the bumptious husband-and-wife producers (Debra Monk and Robert Walden), the local theatre critic (John Bolton), and of course the hapless detective. But the show's thirteen songs are snappy and witty, the story moves along swiftly and buoyantly (thanks to Scott Ellis's deft direction), and the twenty-six performers are a pleasure to watch, especially Pierce, Monk and Megan Sikora (as a blonde bimbo with a sulphuric tongue). Ahmanson Theatre, 135 N. Grand Ave. Call (213) 628-2772 or visit