Closer Than Ever

Richard Maltby, Jr and David Shire
Jermyn Street Theatre

Closer Than Ever

Richard Maltby Jr and David Shire describe their revue, a four-hander with piano and bass, as a collection of short stories. It was a big hit in New York in 1989 when it won the Outer Critics Circle Off-Broadway Award.

Maltby and Shire deal with the emotional problems, anxieties and relationships of "over-educated, under-­stimulated, under-prepared" urban professionals. It is the sort of show you come out of wanting to rush off and buy the lyrics; and even more so when they are not always audible.

Closer Than Ever is very much an adult revue for adults who are prepared to listen. The songs, mostly written in the late 1980s and based on people Maltby and Shire actually knew, are stylish, sophisticated, articulate and of their time.

There are solos and ensembles on the themes of unrequited love, middle-age, keeping fit, twin careers (who looks after the baby?) and second marriages ("You're the first to be my second").

There are songs on loneliness, fatherhood, ghastly friends, missed opportunities, and the onslaught of the march of time (to a rousing Sousa march).

Maltby's humour is sharp and intelligent. (He contributes cryptic crossword puzzles to Harper’s Magazine.) Shire's music, witty, melodious and varied, is a very tuneful complement to the words.

Maltby directs. The cast includes Graham Bickley, Sophie-Louise Dann, Arvid Larsen and Issy Van Randwyck, who all can certainly sing. The intimacy of the Jermyn Street Theatre is the perfect venue for this revue.

Van Randwyck has two of the best numbers. The first, "You Wanna Be My Friend", has a woman who has been ditched by her lover who thinks he can make it up to her by being friends. She gets very angry. She has friends. I DON'T NEED ANOTHER FRIEND! She screams. She wants a lover.

The second is "Miss Byrd" about a seemingly dull and reliable secretary, who "not twenty minutes ago was wearing no clothes" and having sex with the boss, "but I'm not saying anything, oh, no, no."

It’s time somebody also revived the multi-award winning Ain’t Misbehavi’, the Fats Waller musical, which Maltby conceived and directed, and has not been seen in London for 20 years.

Reviewer: Robert Tanitch