Closer Than Ever: Review Roundup

Dvorsky, Noll, Viviano, Colella

Last week, York Theatre Company opened its Off-Broadway revival of the 1989 revue Closer Than Ever to very positive reviews. The creative team includes Richard Maltby Jr. (concept, lyrics, direction), David Shire (music), Scott Smith (concept), Andrew Gerle (music direction), Kurt Stamm (choreography), James Morgan (sets), Nicole Wee (costumes), and Kirk Bookman (lights). The cast includes Jenn Colella, George Dvorsky, Christiane Noll, Sal Viviano.

Eric Grode (N.Y. Times): Musical theater has courted young audiences relentlessly in the 23 years since Closer Than Ever opened Off-Broadway. But among the abundant charms of this pocket-sized 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. More stuff, in fact. … The score by David Shire and lyrics by Richard Maltby Jr., who also directed the piece, look long and hard at what one song calls “The March of Time,” and the four performers are both rueful and relieved about what they find. Mr. Shire’s score continually finds the jaunty rhythms in even the most melancholy subjects. … Charming material presented charmingly and sometimes marvelously: unlike the men and women on either side of the footlights, that combination will never get old.

Brian Scott Lipton (Theater Mania): Richard Maltby Jr. and David Shire’s deliciously tuneful, often pungent musical revue Closer Than Ever, now at the York Theatre Company, feels just as fresh as it did when many of us first heard it 23 years ago. But there are number of equally compelling reasons ­­­– aside from the pair’s instantly memorable melodies and smartly crafted lyrics – for the enterprise’s current success. To begin, there’s Maltby’s simple but sprightly direction in which he guides his exemplary cast. … Maltby has wisely done minimal updating to his lyrics, and the clearest indication of the show’s 2012 setting is a proliferation of iPhones as props. But having a group of performers who are considerably older than their original Off-Broadway counterparts (Lynne Winterstellar, Sally Mayes, Richard Muenz, and Brent Barrett) adds a level of poignancy to the numbers.

David A. Rosenberg (Back Stage): The revue, with energetic direction by lyricist Maltby and breezy, romantic music by David Shire, is both good-natured and harmless, displaying touches of genuine feeling as it runs lightly over an era of missed opportunities. To its credit, the revival is enacted with devotion by a quartet of polished singers who turn the varied show melodies into art songs. … New additions to the evening are “I’ll Get Up Tomorrow Morning” and “There Is Something in a Wedding,” which deals with fights, divorces, and all that passes for love these days. Dropped from the original is “Music Everywhere,” about the chokehold Muzak once had on a generation. Added are references to DVR, iPhones, and Glenn Beck. But essentials never change; as the soaring “Patterns” declares, “Why are patterns haunting every move I make?” Yet salvation comes. As “If I Sing” has it: “There is joy in making music.”

Frank Scheck (N.Y. Post): Closer Than Ever, now receiving a sterling revival by the York Theatre Company, contains plenty of story lines – two dozen, to be exact. Each of the 24 numbers in David Shire and Richard Maltby Jr.’s show … seems more like a concise one-act play. Dealing as it does with themes of loss, love and dreams both fulfilled and unrequited, it’s like a musical manual for the middle-aged. The tone ranges from comic to bittersweet to downright tragic, but warmth and wisdom resonate throughout. If you can’t find something to relate to here, you simply haven’t lived or loved. A spot-on foursome of actors … skillfully navigates the tonal shifts of this alternately funny, poignant and insightful show.

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