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Closer Than Ever – BroadwayHD Digital Revival | Review

It’s said in some quarters that lighting design is sometimes only noticed when it could have been better. This production of Closer Than Ever could, frankly, have been better lit – the contrast between light and dark is sometimes unnecessarily stark, and it wasn’t always easy to make out people’s faces, which rather defeats one of the objects of filmed productions, where the online audience should be able to see facial expressions in a way that just isn’t possible from the back row of the dress circle.

Dalton Harris, Grace Mouat, Lee Mead, Kerry Ellis, Closer Than Ever (credit Bonnie Britain).
Dalton Harris, Grace Mouat, Lee Mead, Kerry Ellis, Closer Than Ever (credit Bonnie Britain).

Starting off with rapidly paced music and lyrics, one wonders if, as the rapid rhythms continue well into the first half, this would be sustained to the end. It’s hardly surprising that it doesn’t, but the structure of the show makes it comes across as though it is running out of steam rather than slowing down for any narrative or dramatic purpose. Each song is a story in itself, rather than being part of a bigger storyline. This kind of format for a sung-through show can and does work (Jason Robert Brown’s Songs For A New World being a case in point), though here the audience is either treated or subjected to broadly similar stories repeatedly. In ‘Life Story’, a woman laments the cards that life has dealt her. Then in ‘Patterns’, another woman does more or less the same thing, expressing regret and dissatisfaction.

Despite the tendency towards breakneck speed narratives (musical director Nick Barstow often has his work cut out, skilfully plays the piano with remarkable dexterity, and even gets a few lyrics of his own to sing), there’s considerable introspection and even depression in the show as a whole. While the final two numbers are suitably uplifting and poignant, they don’t sufficiently lift the gloomy mood set by many of the songs that preceded them. There weren’t even the euphoric feelings of young love being expressed (as far as I could recall), with the characters perhaps meant for slightly older people than this production’s cast.

There are friends who eventually reach the conclusion that they really do not have much, if anything, in common. Parents of dependent children have pressing work commitments and find themselves frantically making additional childcare arrangements with little advance notice. Problem after problem is set before the audience. That said, the voices from everyone in the cast are nothing short of masterful. However, they are given characters that are largely, in a word, boring: nobody seems to do anything out of the ordinary, or take any sort of drastic action to attempt to get themselves out of the dilemmas or difficult situations they find themselves in.

To be fair, some of it is relatable – take, for instance, ‘Fathers of Fathers’, in which members of the middle-aged generation look after their now elderly parents, a reversal of their respective positions a few decades ago. But there’s a reason why one of the musical numbers is called ‘Another Wedding Song’: it ought to have been prefaced with the word ‘just’. The tempo and storylines are more varied in the second half than in the first. But I would have preferred the full gamut of human emotion rather than an overemphasis on angst and despair.

3 Star Review

Review by Chris Omaweng

Award-winning producers Ginger Quiff Media and BroadwayHD, the premiere streaming service for live theatre, have partnered to create a brand-new digital revival of the Outer Critics Circle Award-winning and Drama Desk Award-nominated musical revue, Maltby and Shire’s Closer Than Ever. This BroadwayHD original production will star X Factor winner Dalton Harris, alongside musical theatre icons Lee Mead (Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat; Wicked), Kerry Ellis (Wicked; We Will Rock You) and Grace Mouat (Six; & Juliet). The film will be available to stream worldwide this September, exclusively via BroadwayHD.

Available Exclusively on BroadwayHD from 23rd September 2021

Show Maltby & Shire’s Closer Than Ever
Music by David Shire
Lyrics by Richard Maltby Jr.
Originally directed for the stage by Richard Maltby Jr.
Originally Co-directed by Steven Scott Smith
Originally produced Off-Broadway by Janet Brenner, Michael Gill and Daryl Roth
Director & Musical Stager Stacey Haynes
Co-Director Richard Maltby Jr.
Musical Director Nick Barstow
Production Designer Andrew Exeter
Costume Designer Natalia Alverez
Assistant Director Matt Byham
Cast Kerry Ellis, Dalton Harris, Lee Mead, Grace Mouat
Producers Thomas Hopkins & Michael Quinn for Ginger Quiff Media and
Stewart F. Lane, Bonnie Comley, and Gio Messale for
BroadwayHD

Access Subscribe to BroadwayHD for $8.99 a month, or $99.99 a year.
(The service currently offers a 7-day free trial)

Twitter @Gingerqmedia, @BroadwayHD
Instagram @Gingerquiffmedia, @BroadwayHD

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