‘Closer Than Ever’ is funny, thoughtful | TheUnion.com

‘Closer Than Ever’ is funny, thoughtful

Kim Wellman sings Miss Byrd, a secretary with a secret life, in the Sierra Stages production of Closer than Ever playing through Nov. 24 at the Off Center Stage in Grass Valley.
Submitted by David Wong |

The musical production “Closer Than Ever” is another winner for Sierra Stages. The entire show — cast, songs, musical accompaniment, set, choreography, lighting — is first-rate. If you want something to entertain you while demonstrating the talent in Nevada County, this show is an excellent choice.

“Closer Than Ever” is a musical revue with lyrics by Richard Maltby, Jr. (who also wrote the lyrics for “Miss Saigon”) and score by David Shire. The show developed through a couple of incarnations. It was first performed in 1988 as a one-act revue with a different title, then was expanded into the current two-act musical revue and opened off-Broadway in 1989 to critical and audience acclaim.

The revue doesn’t have spoken dialog or a traditional narrative. Instead, each song is a self-contained story addressing the topics of friendship, dating, marriage, divorce, regret, love, angst, children and parents — the aggregate occurrences that make up a life. Maltby’s lyrics insightfully illuminate these occurrences, as well as cleverly and often humorously skewer the complexities of relationships and life. A number of songs caused the audience to laugh loudly. Some created a few tears. All seemed to resonate with the spectators’ life experiences.

Although Shire’s music can be difficult — numerous key changes require a lot of vocal gymnastics — it is tuneful and enjoyable for listeners. The six-person cast, comprised of Sierra Stages regulars Isaias Acosta, Nancy Haffey, Kate Haight, JR Lewis, Danny McCammon and Kim Wellman, handle the music with aplomb, nary missing a well-enunciated phrase or complex note. The numbers all have fine singing, along with well-executed body language and facial expressions relevant to the particular tune.

Particularly funny and well-done numbers are Haight singing about female animals’ lack of ongoing need for a male in “The Bear, the Tiger, the Hamster and the Mole,” and Wellman’s quiet secretary who reveals a secret love life in “Miss Byrd.” Isaias does a thoughtful and tender rendition of “One of the Good Guys,” about a man who regrets his choice not to stray. And Haffey, Haight, McCammon and Lewis do a spot-on humorous song illuminating the differences in how men and women view dating after divorce in “Dating Again.” Actually, all of the songs are excellent and well-performed.

Director Peter Mason successfully generates visual interest by having his performers enter and exit through the multiple doors of the set. Mason also creates fluid transitions between musical numbers, so there aren’t any static moments. With fine accompaniment by musical director Ken Getz on piano and Steve Nicholson on both stand-up and electric bass, the music imbues the theater with a full sound. The set, designed by Mike Edwards, is good looking, functional and has quality finishing touches. Becky Browning’s accomplished choreography helps the performers to convey each song’s meaning. And Erin Beatie’s lighting design nicely assists in setting the proper mood for each tune.

This show is wonderful musical theater, and I highly recommend you see it. It continues through Nov. 24 at the Off Center Stage in Grass Valley.

Hindi Greenberg loved the lyrics in this musical revue—astute, clever and worth listening to attentively. She so identified with some of the lyrics and characters in the revue that she alternately laughed out loud and had tears well up. What more can anyone ask from an evening’s entertainment?

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