Sheffield Lyceum Theatre dates for TV comedian Jason Manford in comedy musical whodunit, Curtains
Comedian Jason Manford also has an acting career and he’s on stage at the Lyceum Theatre in Sheffield in the musical Curtains.
Here, the TV star talks about the show, and how he finds life in musical theatre compared to his roots in stand-up comedy.
Firstly, can you tell us a little about Curtains?
The show was a huge success on Broadway so it’s really exciting to be bringing this new production to the UK. It’s a comedy musical ‘whodunit?’ and I play a detective obsessed with musicals. When a murder happens in a theatre, he, along with the audience, turns up to discover who the killer is. It’s written by Kander and Ebb who wrote Chicago and Cabaret, so the music is great and it’s a hilarious script.
Did you know the show before coming on board?
I didn’t know much, but as soon as I would mention it to friends in theatre they would say, “That’s one of my favourite shows!”. It’s a popular musical within the theatre community and I’m excited that we can share this love to cities all over the UK.
What appealed to you about taking on the role of Frank Cioffi?
What I love about Frank is that he’s such a sweet guy, even considering he’s there to solve a murder! He loves theatre but hasn’t had the chance to be on stage, and that’s not dissimilar from how I started! I came from a different world, coming from the stand-up comedy and television world and was surrounded by these hugely talented actors and performers, so I can relate to that a bit! There’s something in him that is just fun to play with as an actor.
How will you prepare?
The first thing to do is to adapt to the Boston accent. I’ve done New York a couple of times as I was Leo Bloom in The Producers and Nathan Detroit in Guys and Dolls so I know my way around a New York accent. However, a Boston accent is a new challenge. We get to work with an accent coach and I’ve been watching lots of videos and films set in Boston to get an ear for it. We’ve also got a few dance numbers, so I’ve been hitting the gym to prepare for that!
Audiences may know you best from your TV and comedy work but you’ve been part of many musicals. What initially made you want to make the leap?
What I really love about theatre, which I didn’t realise at first, was how much I enjoy working with other people. You spend so much time alone when you’re touring as a stand-up. I mean, don’t feel sorry for me, I did very well out of it, but it’s a lonely job! So, in theatre it’s lovely to be part of a cast, a family feel, which I really love.
Do you prefer performing in theatre to stand-up comedy, or do you find one or the other better suits you at different points in your life?
I just find that there are times when stand-up is number one, and there are times when it’s theatre. With stand-up I’m starting with a blank page – I sit down and think about what I want to tell stories and jokes about whereas with musicals somebody else is setting the parameters that I then get to explore and play in. There’s something quite exciting about that – someone saying here are the rules, a script, story, songs, and then you’ve got to use what you’ve got to collaborate with them, with what pre-exists. It’s actually a really good discipline, and I’ve been able to use some of the skills I’ve learned in theatre and translate them to how I perform stand-up comedy.
*Curtains runs at the Lyceum Theatre in Sheffield from October 29 to November 2. Tickets are available from the Crucible Theatre box office in person, on 0114 201 6000 or online at www.sheffieldtheatres.co.uk/events/curtains.
Details of the national tour at curtainsmusical.com