It's Maltby's lyrics that shine here - there's a wicked, slightly sardonic sense of humour to the lyrics that often subverts our expectations of musical theatre.
—Joff Schmidt, CBC theatre reviewer
There's an infectious sense of joy in Dry Cold Productions' Closer Than Ever. And since this is a musical revue about the trials and tribulations of mid-life, a little joy is more than welcome.
The 1989 off-Broadway hit, written by Richard Maltby, Jr. and David Shire, offers no dialogue, and no plotline. Rather, the 23 songs that make up the piece are self-contained vignettes looking at everything from the daily rat race to divorce to dating to second marriages.
And the prevailing themes of hope and possibility - "Every day another door" that the four-person cast sings in the opening number - keep Closer Than Ever from being an exercise in whining about being a grown up.
Peter Huck, Debbie Maslowsky,Jennifer Lyon and Aaron Hutton, perform a song and dance (Gary Barringer)
Shire's music is layered and complex, but still accessibly likable, if not necessarily hummable. It's performed skillfully by the two-man backing band of music director Paul De Gurse (piano) and Nenad Zdjelar (bass).
But it's Maltby's lyrics that shine here - there's a wicked, slightly sardonic sense of humour to the lyrics that often subverts our expectations of musical theatre. Take, for example, "What Am I Doin'?" which begins as a standard tale of lovesickness - "What am I doin'/Out of my mind with love?" - but soon becomes another story altogether - "What am I doin'/Stealing her scarf?/What am I doin'/Sifting her trash?". There are lots of laughs to be had here, and most of them come from Maltby's lyrics.
The rest come from the rock-solid work of the cast of local pros (Peter Huck, Aaron Hutton, Jennifer Lyon, and Debbie Maslowsky). Each gets plenty of time in the spotlight, and each makes full use of it. They're uniformly talented singers, and mine the emotional range of the revue - from goofy physical comedy (including some of the funniest bad dancing you'll ever see on stage) to more poignant and reflective moments.
A good catch: Peter Huck and Debbie Maslowsky (Gary Barringer)
Kimberley Rampersad, making an auspicious directorial debut here, guides her cast through the material smartly, and brings a choreographer's eye to keeping the staging lively.Closer Than Ever
hits a few bumps before the end - the second act of the two-hour production is more uneven than the first, and some of the numbers meant to be poignant teeter into maudlin territory.
But it comes full circle to an uplifting ending, and reminds us that "mid-life" means we've still got a lot ahead of us. It's solid "feel good" entertainment for musical theatre fans, and a fine way to kick off a new theatre season.Closer Than Ever plays at the Shaw Performing Arts Centre (MTYP) until Sept. 22.