Review: 'Closer Than Ever' is engaging, melodic

Associated Press
This publicity photo released by O&M Co. shows, from left, George Dvorsky, Christiane Noll, Sal Viviano and Jen Colella in "Closer Than Ever", in an off-Broadway revival by York Theatre Company at Saint Peter’s in New York.  (AP photo/O&M Co., Carol Rosegg)

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This publicity photo released by O&M Co. shows, from left, George Dvorsky, Christiane Noll, Sal Viviano …

NEW YORK (AP) — Face it: life happens. You're going to get old, and experience joy and some setbacks along the way. So you might as well deal with it all humorously.

The delightful musical revue that took that attitude by storm is 1989's successful, seriocomical "Closer Than Ever," presently enjoying a wonderful revival off-Broadway by the York Theatre Company.

This polished production of David Shire's upbeat score and Richard Maltby Jr.'s heartfelt yet sophisticated lyrics is also directed by Maltby, with associate direction and choreography by Kurt Stamm. More than a revue, the two dozen songs create a rich story arc about getting older while learning from real-life choices, realities and disappointments.

The show is fluidly performed by four consummate entertainers who know how to put across a song and convey the story behind it with relish: Jenn Colella, George Dvorsky, Christiane Noll and Sal Viviano.

Some humorously treated subjects include divorce and the hassle of "Dating Again" (which artfully rhymes "dating" with "grating"); the pain of dutifully keeping fit ("There's Nothing Like It"); the rueful realization that "The March of Time" is inexorable; second marriages and parenting — all written and sung with flair, compassion and wit.

Colella, always expressive, is exhilaratingly comical in "Miss Byrd," a song about a meek office worker hiding a sexy secret. She's also thoroughly enjoyable with her sultry, uplifting rendition of "Back on Base."

Noll happily displays her comedic chops in "The Bear, the Tiger, the Hamster and the Mole," a flippant song about the liberating reproductive choices for females in the animal kingdom. Her rich soprano voice is perfectly suited to the bittersweet "Life Story." The two women share a beautiful, soaring duet in "It's Never That Easy/I've Been Here Before."

This quartet of singers harmonizes beautifully in every combination. Viviano, smooth and poised, wistfully wonders about missed romantic relationships in "One of the Good Guys." Dvorsky's warmth and resonant tone are effective throughout, and deeply affecting in "If I Sing," a wonderful tribute by a son to all he learned from his musician father.

With this engaging, talented cast and rich trove of material, burnished with music direction by Andrew Gerle on piano, "Closer Than Ever" is a truly magical, satisfying experience.



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