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Civic Theater: ‘Curtains’ one-part whodunit, one-part who sang it

You might say you can see two musicals for the price of one at the Spokane Civic Theatre beginning Friday:

• “Curtains,” the hit Broadway musical from 2007.

• “Robbin’ Hood! A New Musical of the Old West,” the fictional, intentionally bad 1959 musical which provides the comic backdrop for “Curtains.”

It seems the cast members of “Robbin’ Hood” are being murdered at an alarming rate during tryouts in Boston. “Curtains” is a murder-mystery musical which follows Boston police detective Frank Cioffi as he attempts to solve these backstage murders.

The New York Times equated “Curtains” to a “theater-themed episode of ‘Murder She Wrote’ or ‘Columbo.’ ”

Except those shows didn’t have songs by one of the most beloved Broadway songwriting teams of all time.

“Curtains” is the latest – and lamentably, the last – musical by John Kander and Fred Ebb, who were best known for “Chicago” and “Cabaret.”

The show was finished long before Ebb’s death in 2004, and then reworked with additional material by Rupert Holmes. It finally made it to Broadway in 2007, propelled by a star performance by David Hyde Pierce (Niles on “Frasier”) as the police detective.

Some critics were unimpressed. “Talent-packed and thrill-starved,” said The New York Times.

But the Associated Press called it “a blissful, often very funny celebration of a bygone era, a theater world that has largely disappeared.” Audiences agreed, and the show ran 511 performances before closing in 2008.

“Curtains” is also a big dance show, featuring several production numbers from the doomed “Robbin’ Hood” musical including the Act One closer, “Thataway!”

The show makes allusions to such great Western musicals as “Oklahoma!” and “Annie Get Your Gun.” You’ll even see a little bit of tap dancing.

The Spokane Civic Theatre’s production stars Andrew Ware Lewis in the Hyde Pierce role.

Troy Nickerson is the director and co-choreographer (along with Jillian Wylie). The musical director is Gary Laing.

The cast includes Mary Starkey, Liz Oyama, Maureen Kumakura, Patrick McHenry-Kroetch, Lance Edwin Babbitt, David Gigler, SaraEllen Hutchison, Henry McNulty, Thomas Heppler, Gary Pierce, Doug Dawson, Cynthia Bauder, Kate Cubberley, Victoria Gatts, Siri Hafso, Craig Heider, Shawn Hudson, Todd Kehne, Daniel McKeever, Ross Mumford, Rachel Packard and Christopher Wooley.

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