Curtains, the Kander & Ebb Musical, Sings Again in NYC Reading

News   Curtains, the Kander & Ebb Musical, Sings Again in NYC Reading Another Manhattan reading of the murder mystery musical Curtains was heard Oct. 31, possibly anticipating a Los Angeles world premiere come spring or summer 2006.

Scott Ellis (Twelve Angry Men, Steel Pier) again directed the latest version of the musical that was started by composer John Kander, lyricist Fred Ebb and book writer Peter Stone. Ebb and Stone died before the project could see the light of day, and librettist Rupert Holmes (a Tony Award winner for book and score to The Mystery of Edwin Drood) was brought aboard to work on the book.

The last New York City exploration of the material was in a workshop that began July 5. Then (and on Oct. 31) David Loud was musical director (and a characters) of the backstage musical comedy. The Oct. 31 reading featured Stephen Lee Anderson, Ann Arvia, Laura Benanti, Peter Benson, Stephen R. Buntrock, Edward Hibbert, Rosena Hill, Megan Hilty, Kevin Ligon, David Andrew MacDonald, Michael McCormick, Debra Monk, David Hyde Pierce, Noah Racey, Ric Stoneback, Allyson Turner, Gerry Vichi, Sally Wilfert, Betsy Wolfe and Karen Ziemba.

The presentaton was packed with major producers from around the country. Rob Ashford is apparently attached as choreographer, a source told Playbill.com.

The Monday showing featured book changes and some other tweaks to the material since summer. Rupert Holmes is a the novelist-screenwriter-playwright-songwriter who also created TV's "Remember WENN" and penned a recent mystery novel, "Swing."

* The summer workshop, culminating in private industry presentations July 15, was a test of new material, including new songs since the last reading of the piece in 2003.

Playbill.com previously learned that among changes to the streamlined property — a backstage murder mystery set in the Broadway musical-theatre community — is the time period of the show: It used to be a modern-day setting, but now takes place in the Golden Age of American musicals, the late 1950s.

Actor Edward Hibbert, who was in earlier workshops of it, previously told Playbill.com columnist Harry Haun that the Ahmanson Theatre in Los Angeles is looking at the show.

Indeed, the Ahmanson website is promising "a new pre-Broadway musical" in 2005-06. The L.A. theatre's website stops short of mentioning the title of the show, but it doesn't take too much detective work to surmise Curtains is the plan. According to the Ahmanson, "Mystery, suspense and surprise fill many a good musical, and they are perfectly apropos for this particular announcement. …This new pre-Broadway musical promises to be a must-see sensation. Those of you who love a good mystery may ponder the possibilities. Be assured, this wait and see will not disappoint."

"It's a murder mystery, set backstage at a Broadway show, and I play the director," Hibbert previously told Playbill.com. "It's basically, 'Gosford Park' meets Light Up the Sky, a wonderful mix."

The plot is said to still include an over-the-top husband and wife producing team and explores the egos, eccentricities and passions of theatre people hungry to make a hit musical.

Scott Ellis directed previous readings of Curtains in May 2001 and February 2003. At the 2003 event the cast included Debra Monk, Hibbert, Michele Lee, Chip Zien, John Dossett, Michael McCormick, Paul Michael Valley, James Naughton and more.

The July 2005 workshop cast included Monk, Michele Pawk, Peter Benson, Edward Hibbert, Michael McCormick, Erin Dilly, Hunter Foster, Jessica Stone, Rachel Coloff, Gina Lamparella, Steve Buntrock, Ann Arvia, Gerry Vichi, Paul Michael Valley, James Clow, Kevin Ligon, Sally Wilfert and Elizabeth Mills.

Monk sang a number from the show, "It's a Business," at the Nov. 15, 2004, memorial for Ebb, who died on Sept. 11, 2004. Kander is the only original creator of the project yet living; Stone died on April 26, 2003.

Stone told Playbill.com in January 2001 that Kander and Ebb have been working on Curtains "sporadically for 12-to-13 years. We've each done at least three other shows in that period, so either they've been busy or I have, so it was tough to get together. But we had a private reading three or four weeks ago [in early 2001], just for us, and it was very encouraging. Scott Ellis directed, and we want him to be our director."

Earlier versions of the script indicated Curtains is set during the tryout of a Broadway-bound musical. The show's producers are a married couple, one of whom is murdered in the third scene. Every member of the cast and crew is a suspect, since they all have some kind of beef with the producing twosome.

Curtains is a rarity in that it isn't based on source material from another medium or a play adapted into a musical. "It's an original musical not based on anything," Stone said, adding that after the murder, a homicide detective is brought in, and "by sheer coincidence, he happens to be a remarkably up-to-date musical theatre buff. He's thrilled to be there with opinions and suggestions."

The Garson Kanin novel, "Smash," also centered on intrigue, passion and personalities involved in the making of a Broadway musical.

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