The York Theatre Company at St. Peter's Church (Lexington & 54th Street in Manhattan) has been running a series of revivals of off-Broadway musicals. The current offering is "Closer Than Ever," a musical revue by Richard Maltby, Jr. and David Shire, which had an off-Broadway run in 1989 and generated a cast recording that has kept the show alive for those who know it. (I don't.) My regular theater-going companion was eager to see this, having fond memories (and half of the cast album – a CD went missing at some point), and so we went last night to a preview performance. (The printed program did not say when the official opening performance will take place, but the run is scheduled to end on July 14, and previews began June 5.
This was a lively and entertaining evening. The cast of two men and two women are well-matched vocally, and they bring incredible energy to the demanding choreography by Kurt Stamm. Lyricist Maltby directs the production – so the author's wishes are well represented here – and Andrew Gerle, a talented pianist, is credited as the musical director and was probably the hardest working person on the stage, since he was involved in every number. The performers are Jenn Colella, George Dvorsky, Christiane Noll, and Sal Viviano, each splendid in their own way.
As this is a revue, there is no plot, as such, and the performers are not playing specific characters. Rather a sequence of songs suggests various aspects of modern life (as of the 1980s) – meetings, relationships, marriages, divorces, parenthood, etc. The perspective is, with only two specific references I could hear, well rooted in the heterosexual life, but many of the sentiments will translate to other kinds of living. In a program of 24 songs, there naturally will be some that are more interesting or appealing than others, but the overall standard is high and some of the numbers are total knockouts. As this is a revival, one doesn't expect that there will be very many changes during the preview period and so I don't feel particularly inhibited about commenting.
I thought they could stand to lose a song or two in each half, as it runs a bit long for a show without a plot. (About 2-/14 hours, with a fifteen minute intermission. Perhaps a more compact version of 90 minutes without an intermission would be more effective.)
I'm glad I went, and I'm happy to recommend this as a show worth hearing.