Chris Peterson / OnStage Editor in ChiefOver the next 60 days, everyday we will be featuring and reviewing a musical cast recording. The purpose behind this is to try to discover and rediscover pieces that deserve more credit, more productions and more attention. Plus we get to listen to a lot a musical theatre, which is always a good thing.
Day 13 ~ Closer Than Ever
When I was in college, rumors would always speculate as to what shows would be picked for that year. Our director, Fred, was very good about keeping it under wraps. Usually we try to peek in and see what scripts or librettos were on his desk, hoping they would be an indicator to what would be selected. One year, word started to trickle out that for our annual musical we would be doing Maltby & Shire's Closer Than Ever. Having never heard of this piece, I tried to listen to as much of it as I could but until today, I had never heard the entire recording.
Background:Closer Than Ever is a musical revue in two acts, with words by Richard Maltby, Jr. and music by David Shire. The revue contains no dialogue, and Maltby and Shire have described this show as a "bookless book musical". The show was originally conceived by Steven Scott Smith as a one act revue entitled "Next Time Now!", which was first given at the nightclub Eighty-Eights. The success of "Next Time Now!" led to a much expanded production retitled Closer Than Ever that was co-directed by Maltby and Smith. This production began its life at the Williamstown Theatre Festival in Massachusetts during the Summer of 1989. It came to New York the following Fall, opening in previews on 17 October 1989, and officially opening on 6 November 1989 at the off-Broadway Cherry Lane Theatre, where it ran for 312 performances. The cast included Brent Barrett, Sally Mayes, Richard Muenz, and Lynne Wintersteller.
Synopsis: Closer Than Ever features self-contained songs which deal with such diverse topics as security, aging, mid-life crisis, second marriages, working couples, and unrequited love. Maltby and Shire based many of the songs on real-life experiences of their friends, or stories told to them.
Review: It's sort of a mixed bag songbook revue. The quality of the music seems to vary with almost each track. The music is somewhat dated which would make it difficult to perform in certain spaces in 2015. There are some standout numbers, "Doors" is a great opening number. "If I Sing" is an audition standard but a strong piece. But my personal favorite is "Life Story." Lynne Wintersteller sounds fantastic, so does Brent Barrett.
If your audience base is a majority baby boomer crowd, this might not be a bad option for them. There is a ton of relatable material. But I don't see this for a piece for college students, thankfully our theatre director didn't end up selecting it.