Theater Review: 'Closer than Ever' -- 4 stars
Closer than Ever
While there is no overarching plot to "Closer than Ever," an intimate 1989 revue by composer David Shire and lyricist Richard Maltby Jr., 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.
It premiered at a time in musical theater when the craft of songwriting was increasingly playing second fiddle to elaborate special effects. Seeing as much hasn't changed since then (have you seen "Ghost the Musical"?), "Closer than Ever" feels more relevant than ever before.
With generous doses of humor, heart and wit, its songs explore dating, sex, friendships, aging, longing, parenthood and past regrets.
For instance, in "The Bear, the Tiger, the Hamster and the Mole," which was originally cut from Maltby and Shire's musical "Baby," a woman finds inspiration from the female animals that do not need to rely on male partners. The song is a tour-de-force for the actress performing it and quite a biology lesson for an audience.
The York Theatre Company's new revival is directed by Maltby himself. Although it features two new songs and some updated references to Glenn Beck and DVR, its greatest merits lie in Maltby's smooth direction and the high-spirited and emotionally honest performances of Jenn Colella, George Dvorsky, Christiane Noll and Sal Viviano.
Dvorsky and Viviano, each of whom possesses a strong voice and presence, are most comfortable with ballads like "If I Sing," in which Dvorsky recalls how he learned his craft, and "One of the Good Guys," where Viviano is haunted by a lost opportunity.
Noll, who starred in the recent Broadway revival of "Ragtime," scores beautifully with "Life Story" and "Patterns" and the quirky Colella really lets loose in "Miss Byrd."
If you go: "Closer than Ever" plays at the York Theatre Company through July 14. Lexington Avenue at 54th Street, 212-935-5820, yorktheatre.org.