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Time Out Theater Review: "Closer Than Ever"

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Off-Broadway's York Theatre Company is offering up a new staging of the 1989 musical revue "Closer Than Ever," a piece which explores the search for friendship, family, love and happiness. Time Out New York Contributing Critic David Cote filed the following report.

For over 40 years, the York Theatre Company at Lexington and 54th Street has offered an alternative to loud, busy, big-budget Broadway spectacles. They put on smart, intimate shows for adults. The York’s latest offering, a revival of Richard Maltby Jr. and David Shire’s 1989 song revue, “Closer than Ever,” is no exception.

Lyricist Maltby and composer Shire had success on Broadway in the 1980s but this lesser-known songwriting duo doesn’t have quite the cachet of, say, Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty. Still, this collection of 24 songs is an excellent showcase for two pros that can turn out clever and witty tunes that, if you were feeling generous, you could call Sondheimesque. They write about getting older, couples growing apart, husbands having regrets, love making a fool of you and the joys of marriage and babies. It’s urbane, emotional and often witty.

Maltby directs the four charming singers in a polished production: the sweet George Dvorsky, the prim but sly Christiane Noll, the studly Sal Viviano and, best of all, brassy and bawdy Jenn Colella.

Even if the material dips into the saccharine or smacks of the therapist’s couch, Maltby’s inspired rhymes and Shire’s jazzy, elegant musical hooks sustain your interest. And these four nicely-balanced performers squeeze every last ounce of comedy and pathos from their numbers.

If you prefer your musicals with a book and a narrative arc, “Closer than Ever” may not be for you. But fans of cabaret and particularly this seasoned songwriting duo are in for a rich and varied night of musical mini-dramas, up close and personal.

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