Scott Ellis (Twelve Angry Men, Steel Pier) is directing, with David Loud serving as musical director (and playing a character). New to the creative team is Rupert Holmes, the Tony Award-winning librettist, lyricist and composer known for The Mystery of Edwin Drood. The novelist-screenwriter-playwright-songwriter also created TV's "Remember WENN" and penned a recent mystery novel, "Swing."
The addition of Holmes to the project comes following the recent deaths of Stone and Ebb, major talents in the American musical theatre. It is thought Holmes is only focusing on the book of Curtains, and not contributing to Kander and Ebb's existing score.
The new workshop, culminating in private industry presentations July 15, is a test of new material, including new songs since the last reading of the piece in 2003.
Playbill.com 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 is in the workshop cast, previously told Playbill.com columnist Harry Haun that the Ahmanson Theatre in Los Angeles is looking at the show (indeed, the Ahmanson teases on its season brochure that a new musical is expected there in summer 2006). 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 as the plan. According to the Ahmanson, "Mystery, suspense and surprise fill many a good musical, and they are perfectly apropos for this particular announcement. Scheduled for a Broadway workshop during the summer, 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 current July 2005 workshop cast includes 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. 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.