Sacramento Theatre Company’s production of Maltby and Shire’s “Closer Than Ever” is a thoroughly enjoyable way to spend an evening out. The show, set in 1989 New York, is a song cycle of vignettes centered on life’s challenges and changes.
The show itself is a “bookless musical,” meaning there is no dialogue, and each song stands on its own. Every time the actors take the stage, it is as a different character. The small ensemble cast of four actors and two musicians deftly weaves their way through the two hours of music with high energy and artistic skill.
Bringing this show to life are Jerry Lee, Kristen Heitman, Andrea St. Clair, and Nick Adorno. Each of these actors brings a lot of talent to the table, and director Robert Marra allows them to shine brightly in their roles. Adorno’s performance of “One of the Good Guys” in the first act is the first real stand-out song in the show. Adorno’s rendition is well-acted, and the piece shows off his beautiful voice very well.
St. Clair ups the ante with the next solo, called “Life Story.” She brings great depth to the character, and though the song’s story is complete in the space of its three-or-so minutes, you wish you had more.
Lee’s best solo is his rendition of “If I Sing,” in which he plays a son telling the story of his father, who instilled a love of music in him. The song itself is beautiful, and Lee’s baritone gives the notes a warm and tender richness. The character for that piece also seems to suit him very well.
Heitman gets the audience laughing with her “Miss Byrd” and “Back on Base,” both of which show her excellent sense of comedic timing and inflection.
Though these solos are all enjoyable, the best parts of the show are when the cast comes out in trios or as a full ensemble and they are able to let their voices shine through complex harmonies. “Three Friends,” the opener of the second act, got well-deserved laughs. “Fathers of Fathers” features Lee and Adorno, along with pianist Samuel Clein. The song itself is lovely, and the actors’ delivery of the tender subject was beautiful. Just after that comes a powerhouse duet between St. Clair and Heitman. The whole thing wraps up with a nice ensemble number that echoes the show’s opening song. The finale leaves the audience feeling warm and satisfied as they walk out the door.
The show had very few slow moments, but those can be attributed to a couple of songs that were somewhat less awesome than the others. The actors’ delivery of these songs was still excellent; it’s just that the songs themselves were not as engaging as some of the others.
Design-wise, the show’s lighting is effective and evokes the mood of each song nicely without being distracting, and the show’s simple set works very well in the intimate setting.
All in all, this is a very good production, and is well worth the time to go see. Well done, STC.