TO SEE OR NOT TO SEE: “Closer Than Ever”
Every first Wednesday of the month, get caught up with what’s on stage with our review round-up. And that vaguely hollow, clinking sound you hear at the end of each segment? That’s me tossing in my two cents. This month, we have two shows worth cheering about. Let’s look at one today and one when it opens tomorrow…
The classic Maltby & Shire musical revue — if you are a theater lover over the age of 35, you probably know the original cast album by heart — gets revived in a new production at Off-Broadway’s York Theater Company.
“…among the abundant charms of this pocket-size 1989 revue, now getting a polished revival by the York Theater Company, is its assertion that folks with a few miles on the odometer also have stuff to sing about.” New York Times
“…a wonderfully performed revival …” New York Daily News
“…bejeweled masterpieces … The texture is unmistakably eighties—but, in case you haven’t noticed, that’s the decade we appear to be reliving.” New York Magazine
“…its 26 exquisitely crafted songs – each of which presents distinct scenarios about various middle-aged individuals – together make for an absolutely exquisite and exhilarating theatrical experience.” AM New York
Mizer’s Two Cents: A bittersweet time capsule of 70’s and 80’s theater songs, the show overcomes the slight whiff of datedness and the usual revue ratio of hits and misses thanks to the sensitive craftsmanship of the writing, the clarity of the musicianship and the strength of some performances. One could make a case that there’s a direct line from these influential songs to the current crop of chit-chat, pop-lite music theater songs by young composers — however, Maltby & Shire pack their mini-plays with real insight and juicy melodic hooks that make them stand the test of time. There is an attempt to understand people, dig deeper, amid the enjoyable confections.
Adding some real sweetness — and bite — to the mix, Tony-nominee Christiane Noll reveals the quirky, harried comedienne beneath her regal soprano image and the delicious Jenn Colella delights with her big voice, honest (and honestly funny) acting choices and sexy swagger; their climatic duet of the sublime “It’s Never That Easy/I’ve Been Here Before” is a true highlight (– and lives up to the many late-night, wine-fueled sing-a-long versions I’ve participated in.)
[Note: Colella and Noll will be leaving the show in the next week but, fear not, Julia Murney and Jacquelyn Piro Donovan sound like very exciting additions.]