Jenn Colella, Christiane Noll and George Dvorsky in the York Theatre Company revival of "Closer Than Ever Peter’s. (Photo by Carol Rosegg).
NEW YORK – For a summer theatrical tonic in the big city, there is nothing better than the musical revue "Closer Than Ever," at off-Broadway’s York Theatre Company’s headquarters at St. Peter’s, 619 Lexington Ave. at East 54th Street. It plays through Aug 25.
This grown-up songspiel by Richard Maltby Jr. and David Shire, about love and career and relationships and marriage and choices, is a simple and modest show, but is as refreshing as any entertainment in town.
Written in the 1980s, it opened off-Broadway in 1989 and ran for a season, though the original cast recording of the show has lived on and become a popular cult favorite with audiences of all ages. I even have a friend who listened to it while undergoing an MRI.
Each of the 24 songs – there is no spoken dialogue – that Maltby and Shire have penned for "Closer Than Ever" is a little gem of a one-act play about the vagaries of life, some funny, some wistful, some bittersweet, but all told with melodious music and thoughtful lyrics. The production is fortunate to have a dazzling first-class cast: Jenn Colella, George Dvorsky, Christiane Noll and Sal Viviano, and they are all wonders. Each is an individual stylist, a performer of unique personality. They work together harmoniously as a team in a show that moves swiftly from one song to the next.
All of the performers have their moments at center stage: Ms. Noll, who has a gorgeous soprano voice, sings beautifully of the "Patterns" of life; while Ms. Colella, a remarkable clown with a flexible face, sings the funny song "Miss Byrd," about a secretary with a dual personality; big-voiced Mr. Dvorsky gives a soaring rendition of "I’ll Get Up Tomorrow Morning"; and Mr. Viviano is touching and brilliant singing "One of the Good Guys."
Each is accompanied by the excellent musical director/pianist Andrew Gerle and bass player Alan Stevens Hewitt.
The costumes by Nicole Wee and decor by James Morgan are simple but elegant. Mr. Morgan’s setting features clouds and doors, all artfully lit by Kirk Bookman.
Mr. Maltby has staged the evening smoothly with a knowing and a fresh point of view, making "Closer Than Ever" a very enjoyable time in the theater.
Disclosure: I am a board member of the York Theatre where "Closer Than Ever" is playing. Although I do not usually review or write about productions at theater companies where I have even a peripheral connection, The Catholic Transcript made an exception when I pointed out that although I support the York Theatre’s basic artistic mission, I have no say whatsoever in what productions it chooses to stage.
Critic Bernard Carragher lives in New York and covers the arts and entertainment.