It's a good thing that Closer Than Ever,Richard Maltby and David Shire's musical revue, never made it to Broadway after its 1989 premiere. By now, the Official Broadway Stamp of Approval would have forced its schmaltzy, cliché-riddled songs on every high school theater department and dinner house in America, and beyond.
That's not to say there's nothing good about this Chance Theater production—each of the six singer/actors are very good at what they do. But given some decent material, they'd just be so much better.
There's no real plot to Closer Than Ever. It's mostly just a series of show tunes strung together, each one about some aspect of male-female love and relationships and the turmoils and ecstasies of them all (the zero queer content alone would've dated this—even back in '89—so we suggest another title, like Heterosexual: The Musical). There are songs about being hopelessly in love; songs about obsessive horniness; songs about going to the gym to look more attractive; songs about two-career couples; songs about babies, fathers and girlfriends; songs about getting older; songs about staying faithful to your woman. Some of these numbers are so goopy and cloying—and the cast croons them with such straight faces—that we had to fight to keep from laughing. Out loud.
While there is an occasional funny lyric in all this, the play is habitually weighed down by too much overly sentimental, emotionally manipulative bullshit—that is, when it's not busy spewing grade-school-level analogies (life, y'see, is like a series of doors, and whenever we close the door on one chapter of our lives, a new door is always right there to open. Gack!). Then there's the egregious, sexist stereotyping, such as how men are just big babies who want to be held and fed—visit the websites we've bookmarked, honey, and we'll show you that men also like to be spanked and diapered.
The best moment in Closer Than Ever is Jocelyn A. Brown's rendition of "Life Story," a seamless blend of singing and acting certain to earn her the same huge ovation she got on opening night for the play's entire run. Too bad there's not much else to clap about.
CLOSER THAN EVER AT THE CHANCE THEATER, 5552 E. La Palma Ave., Anaheim, (714) 777-3033. Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m. $22-$40. through Feb. 20.