First performed in 1989, Richard Maltby Jr. and David Shire’s Closer Than Ever brings together more than 20 musical numbers linked not by a traditional narrative, but by the themes of life and love as seen through the eyes of a range of characters at different stages in their adult lives. This “musical revue” format comes with both benefits and drawbacks: while the variety of styles and subjects means the show has something for everyone, the absence of anything resembling a plot can make it difficult to stay focused throughout (and indeed to write a review).
Fortunately, this revival from Ginger Quiff Media and BroadwayHD is available to watch online, which means not only can viewers pause whenever they feel their attention wandering or need a bathroom break, but they can also go back and re-watch any numbers that they particularly enjoy. And with a powerhouse cast comprising West End performers Lee Mead, Kerry Ellis and Grace Mouat, along with X Factor winner Dalton Harris, chances are there’ll be quite a few of those.
Over the course of 90 minutes, we hear about relationships in crisis, the perils of modern dating, unrequited love, the stress of juggling work and family, guilty secrets, and the “joy” of exercising, among others. The playlist successfully balances humour with deeper emotions of tenderness, grief and the wistful longing to know what could have happened along a path not taken. Throughout, a recurring motif of doors is reflected in both score and set, representing the choices we make every day and – for better or worse – the consequences those choices can have for the rest of our lives.
The cast, too, is well balanced, with each performer equally comfortable throwing themselves into the comedic songs as baring their soul in a quieter moment, and with voices that complement each other perfectly in group numbers. X Factor winner Dalton Harris in particular proves himself more than equal in a musical theatre setting to his more experienced co-stars, turning out some truly captivating performances – his solo numbers What Am I Doin’?, One Of The Good Guys and If I Sing are standout moments, even in a show where every cast member brings their A-game.
Aside from the aforementioned ability to take a break or return to favourite songs, the digital format of Closer Than Ever has a further advantage, in that it allows every audience member to get up close to the actors and musicians, and to catch all the nuances of their performances. This feels more important in a show where each number is a story on its own, and we don’t have much time to get to know each character before moving on to the next song.
While it might not be your traditional musical, Closer Than Ever has more than enough going for it – an excellent cast, enjoyable songs and themes to which everyone can relate to some degree – to make this an extremely welcome and entertaining revival of a much-loved classic.
Closer Than Ever is available to watch online now at BroadwayHD.com.