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The Landor Theatre for Matthew Gould

presents

Closer Than Ever

 

 

Lyrics by Richard Maltby Jr

 

Music by David Shire

 

Conceived by Steve Scott Smith

 

Director: Robert McWhir

 

Choreography:  Matthew Gould

 

Musical Director: David Randall

 

Designer: Jason Denvir

 

Landor Theatre

 

14 Sept – 9 Oct 2010

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A review by James Buxton for EXTRA! EXTRA!

Anyone looking for a slice of Broadway action should head South to the Landor Theatre in Clapham. Despite lacking the glamour and glitz of New York, the four actors in Closer Than Ever may be able to convince you otherwise. For this entertaining, all singing, all dancing musical puts on a pleasurable evening. From the lacy gold drapes that provide the backdrop, to the sultry lighting, fading from amorous crimson to sentimental cobalt, Closer Than Ever makes an enjoyable attempt at recreating the glamour of the Off Broadway original. Throughout, the performers are accompanied by live music in the form of a pianist and double bassist, creating an atmosphere of a late night jazz bar.

The company comprises of, Clare Burt, Ria Jones, Michael Cahill and Glyn Kerslake, who perform a series of songs, individually, in duets or with full force as a group. With not much of a plot to go on, the central theme is that they are a group of forty something school friends who are all undergoing mild mid life crisis. Thus we are treated to the highs and lows of middle age, which vary from the nostalgia of youth, to the fear of old age, the phoniness of friends and the reliability of family, the tee total parties and the fitness regimes undergone to re attain a pinch of their youth.  Dear reader you must forgive my cynicism, for your humble reviewer is of a young age and may still be hampered by the flippancy only youth can afford.

Where Closer than Ever succeeds, is in its humour, as it parodies middle aged men and women desperate to relight the flame of their youth. Ria Jones provocatively sings one number as the steamy “Miss Byrd” an apparently prim secretary, who relishes the contrast between her refined appearances and her saucy, secret, sex life. While revealing her wild fantasises, she sensually caresses a swivel chair as if it were her lover before reaching a crescendo as she flies back and forth on a swing that dangles from the ceiling. The song is hilarious due to Jones's overblown eroticism, Maltby's suggestive lyrics and the absurd image of her swinging as the song climaxes.

In the following number “There's Nothing Like It” the cast don spandex and headbands and sing of their unrestrained joy, despite appearing to be in severe pain due to the strenuous nature of the exercise. They impatiently jog around the stage in a desperate bid to become fit till they are each seized by a spasm of pain. Maltby's lyrics poke fun at the legions of yummy mummies on a diet of wheat grass and fitness programs whose desperation to achieve their perfect weight and figure can only be measured by the exact amount of beads of sweat they collect from the calories they burn. These comic numbers are done with a playful insouciance and harmless mockery of people who are unwilling to come to terms with ageing.

It is hard to feel any emotional attachment to the characters in Closer than Ever due to the lack of a plot and the fact that we are presented with song after song in the manner of a cabaret. Therefore the sentimental songs despite being sung well, suffer from being just a little too self indulgent, rather than engaging the audience's sympathies, the performers give the appearance of being sad, happy or angry but do not feel believable as their characters are not fully formed.  Song and dance is the nature of musicals and like Marmite it divides opinion. However in a musical of such nature where one song follows another, the characters are denied the time and space necessary for any serious depth of personality to emerge.

Closer Than Ever is a fun filled evening of light entertainment, and if you are looking for quality singing, jazz hands and sparkling sequinned waistcoats, this is the musical for you. It is a New York show first and foremost and Maltby's lyrics expose the comic attitudes and fears of ageing for middle aged, high flying NYC socialites. Parallels can definitely be drawn for an English audience but the brashness and style is all distinctly American. The live music carries along the effervescent performances and credit goes to all the performers for their sustained ability to belt out so many numbers with harmonious melody and spirited gusto; yet the lack of any emotionally engaging characters may mean, this show doesn't quite hit the high note.

 

 

Landor Theatre
70 Landor Road
London SW9 9PH

Box Office: 020 7737 7276 

Tickets £ 20 adult, £ 15 concessions.

19.30

http://www.landortheatre.co.uk/

 

 

 

 

 

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