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A CurtainUp Review
Closer Than Ever

Closing on July 14th as scheduled-- but only for a one week hiaturs. Then, due to popular demand and critical acclaim, reopening and play through 8/25/12 -- and that 2nd run extended through 9/30/12. The September performance schedule Beginning September 4: the performance schedule will change to Tuesdays at 7:00 p.m., Wednesdays through Fridays at 8:00 p.m., Saturdays at 2:30 p.m. & 8:00 p.m, and Sundays at 2:30 p.m. The August cast features Jacquelyn Piro Donovan and Julia Murney. They replace: Jenn Colella and Christiane Noll. Another cast update: As of August 25th Leslie Kritzer takes over from Julia Murney-- and rumor has it that the show will become an open run.
Most of the interpersonal issues our characters faced haven’t changed much at all, and to us, most of these stories still sound pretty much like stories people would tell today. All David (Shire) and I can say is if from time to time you catch the faint whiff of people talking about a different age, well, they are. — Richard Maltby, Jr.
Closer Than Ever<
Jenn Colella and Danny Weller
(Photo: Carol Rosegg)
It has been over 20 years since Closer Than Ever first reached out to touch 40-plus urbanites with Richard Maltby, Jr. and David Shire's perceptive songs. Since 1989, the economy has flip-flopped, with several wars, an ongoing debt crisis, technology—we know it all too well. The York Theater's revival of this solid musical revue with four Broadway actors/singers, one pianist and a bass player still proves that less embroidery can reveal more detail.

With smart direction by Maltby the seemingly simple songs offer ironic observations about the complex and unpredictable concerns of grown-ups which prove to be much the same now as 20 years ago. Jenn Colella, George Dvorsky, Christiane Noll and San Viviano deliver 26 songs unplugged and without dialogue. With Kurt Stamm’s perky choreography, each is staged as a fully developed moment in a character’s life. After closing in on your goals, then what? Life changes, doors suddenly open and close. People cope with issues like the perils of “Dating Again,” the frustrations of child-care (“Fandango”), becoming the parent to their own parents (“Father of Fathers”) and growing old themselves (“The March of Time”).

Outstanding is Christiane Noll’s ( Ragtime, Jekyll & Hyde ) reflective “Life Story,” the woman who battled for women’s rights but is now a single mother struggling with doubts and fears, even wondering if leaving her marriage was a mistake. With a tinge of regret she affirms “But I’m not complaining.”

With understated honesty, Sal Viviano ( The Full Monty ) conveys a reflection of what it means to be a husband and father, a good provider and “One of the Good Guys.” Occasionally, however, he is teased by daydreams of what might have been. He admits, finally, that if you’re one of one of the good guys, the longing for a different road is part of the package. George Dvorsky ( The Scarlet Pimpernel ) scores in his passionate solo “If I Sing,” a heartfelt homage to his father who taught him all he knows about music and life.

With broad physical humor in “You Wanna Be My Friend,” Jenn Colella ( Urban Cowboy, High Fidelity ), tells off a clueless Dvorsky when he offers friendship that she’s on the prowl for a lover. The show’s funniest segment is Colella’s “Miss Byrd” about seemingly a single, dull receptionist. Who knew that just an hour ago she was writhing under the sheets with her lover in Apartment A? Colella, with comical flair and physical flexibility builds the humor and proves that “heard melodies are sweet but those unheard. . .ooo, wee!”

Maltby and Shire are both multiple award-winning songwriters and the original recording was quite successful. Maltby’s lyrics here are more clever than tear-provoking, tugging more at your brain than your heart. Shire has a gift for catchy melodies. He has lyrical ability as well, as proven in this revival’s, “Back on Bass,” Colella’s jazzy seduction number with bassist Danny Weller’s sly hint of a smile and sinuous bass riffs.

Lighted sensitively by Kirk Bookman, Jim Morgan’s bare blue stage, with a backdrop of billowy clouds, and six white doors for the performers’ exits and entrances, resembles a contemporary Manhattan apartment hallway. Trying to give each performer a distinctive quality, costume designer Nicole Wee uses body-fitting stretch fabrics for Colella’s lithe physique and conservative pantsuits for Noll’s traditional look. She suits up the men in casual jackets and bright shirts that offer a slight hint of a previous era. Pianist and music director Andrew Gerle and bass player Danny Weller are in black tie.

Sometimes the late ‘80’s seems like a different world, and in many ways it was. People, however, are still most affected by relationships and life’s changes and this inhabits the songs in Closer Than Ever. Though the production has hardly changed since 1989 I find even more to appreciate today in Maltby and Shire’s intelligent observations and solid songs than I did when I saw the original.

Closer Than Ever
Music by David Shire, Lyrics by Richard Maltby, Jr.
Directed by Richard Maltby, Jr.

Cast: Jenn Colella, George Dvorsky, Christiane Noll, Sal Viviano
Music Director: Andrew Gerle
Instruments: Andrew Gerle on piano, Alan Stevens Hewitt, Danny Weller on bass
Associate Director and Choreographer: Kurt Stamm
Set Design: James Morgan
Costume Design: Nicole Wee
Lighting Design: Kirk Bookman
Technical Director: Wyatt Kuether
Production Stage Manager: Bernita Robinson
Running Time: Two hours with intermission.
York Theatre at Saint Peter’s. Citicorp Building. 619 Lexington Avenue (Corner of 54th St.) .
Tickets: $67.50. In preview, $40. (212) 935-5820$55.
Performances: Mon., Tues. at 7pm; Wed to Fri. at 8pm; Saturday at 2:30pm and 8pm.
Previews: 6/5/12; Open: 6/20/12. Closes: 7/14/12
Review by Elizabeth Ahlfors based on performance 6/16/12
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