Director Leigh Barrett’s production of the Maltby/Shire revue, CLOSER THAN EVER (playing @ New Rep through Sept. 28th) soars when the women are front and center. (Barrett has split the songs among two male and two female singers.) The men mostly have the angst ridden and sentimental songs but the women get the plum comic numbers. When you have Barrett and Kathy St. George interpreting the material you’re home free.
Well, not necessarily. A couple of months ago I saw an ill fated production of COMPANY. I could hardly wait for Barrett’s “Ladies Who Lunch.” It’s always the showstopper. I’m sure it would have been, were it not for a sinister sound system which entirely cut out the audio on the “Ladies,” leaving the audience in misery. So here’s kudos for New Rep’s acoustics and their impeccable sound system (something I used to take for granted).
Some of the songs are ho-hum but a few are inspired: Barrett’s cheeky “The Bear, the Tiger, the Hamster and the Mole” is a scientific rundown of the female of the (animal) species, where “the male has control for one moment only,” (and that would be the mating moment). We’re in hysterics even before the song arrives at the ambidextrous oyster who can fertilize her own eggs, thank you very much!
St. George acts the heck out of the not so demure “Miss Byrd” who flies away at lunchtime, unseen, to refresh her, let’s say, enthusiasm for the rest of the workday. And St. George sizzles in her sexy paean to the musicians who play the bass fiddle: She purrs, she scats and she playfully messes with John Styklunas’ hair as he’s accompanying her on base. The incomparable Jim Rice on piano makes the show tick and he even sings a little harmony.
Brian Richard Robinson gets laughs with “What Am I Doing” (up on her roof) as the guy who can’t move on and David Foley gets to tug at our heartstrings with the tender “Fathers of Fathers.” The singers spend a good deal of time pushing Jon Savage’s multiple doors into place or carrying on (what look like) heavy stuffed chairs and I began to worry that someone would pull a muscle. This is, after all, a show about “getting older” and one would hope, wiser than that.
See CLOSER THAN EVER for the ladies who are indeed funnier than ever.