Closer Than Ever Review - The Music of Life

CLOSER THAN EVER memorializes the everyday details of ordinary life through lyrics designed to resonate with the audience and serve as reminders that the ordinary can become extraordinary. Composer David Shire and lyricist Richard Maltby, Jr. have turned 24 songs into a symphony of life. Each number tells a story that will revive old memories and resurrect feelings in members of the audience.

 

Adam von Almen, Valerie Perri, Katheryne Penny, and Kevin Bailey - Photo by Tracey Roman

CLOSER THAN EVER has no spoken lines. The lyrics of each melody tell their own stories - and these stories are at once touching, amusing, funny, and sad - but never boring. They tell of new love, marriage, parenting, divorce, dating, love the second time around, growing older, and almost every event that people might encounter in a lifetime. They may evoke laughter - and sometimes tears - as they recount experiences that we’ve all had. They “speak to people” in the language of music. And, as they speak, people grow closer than ever.

 

Valerie Perri, Adam von Almen, and Katheryne Penny - Photo by Tracey Roman

Originally performed at the International Center Theater in Long Beach in 1992, this timeless production remains as universally true today as it was 24 years ago. Award-winning music director Gerald Sternbach plays the piano throughout the show - and ably assists vocally with his surprisingly powerful set of lungs in one number. During the talk-back at the end of the show, he also proved to be the show’s historian, since he was in the original all those years ago. The current talented cast of four are called Man #1 and #2 and Woman #1 and $2, and can they sing! Each has an excellent solo voice, and they manage to harmonize in unique ways while performing in some group numbers. Kevin Bailey and Valerie Perri are the older couple, while Adam von Almen and Katheryne Penny are the younger couple - making it possible for the songs to run the gamut of the life cycle. And let’s not forget the second musician on stage throughout the show, bass player Brad Babinski, who get to “star” in one number.

 

Kevin Bailey and Katheryne Penny - Photo by Tracey Roman

Stephanie Kerley Schwartz’s set design fits perfectly into this musical revue, as do Debra Garcia Lockwood’s lighting and Dave Mickey’s sound design. The production crew has done an excellent job of making the set interesting yet not so complex that it distracts from the lyrics which make the show special. Last, but certainly not least, director/choreographer Todd Nielsen orchestrates the frequent scene and mood changes so that they look absolutely effortless; he certainly knows his way around getting the best from his cast.

 

Kevin Bailey, Valerie Perri, Adam von Almen, and Katheryne Penny - Photo by Tracey Roman

CLOSER THAN EVER runs through March 6, 2016, with performances at 8 p.m. Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays and at 2 p.m. on Sundays. The International City Theatre is in the Long Beach Performing Arts Center, which is located at 300 East Ocean Blvd., Long Beach, CA 90802. Tickets range from $47 to $55. For reservations, call 562-436-4610 or go online at www.InternationalCityTheatre.org.

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