It’s hard to catch lightning in a bottle when you’re doing a musical revue. You need first-rate singers who can pull off a variety of vocal styles from comedic to the blues. Then, you need to have first-rate material for them to perform and those songs must somehow feel like they belong together and are not just chosen at random. All this needs to be supported by several key things. First and foremost, it needs a strong director with a vision for the show to ensure that every element fits together and further advances that vision. It needs a strong musical director to bring out the nuances of the music and to give guidance to the phrasing in order to fully convey the emotions and thoughts of every song. It needs a set which gives the actors a variety of places in which to perform while allowing for fluid movement thus keeping the staging from being monotonous and repetitive. It also needs lighting that is rich and further enhances the tones of the various songs performed.
I am happy to say that CVREP has succeed in capturing that lightning with their current production of CLOSER THAN EVER. Under the sharp direction of Ron Celona, the evening delivers on every count. The four performers, Julie Garnyé, Jeffrey Landman, Janna Cardia, and Michael Bullard, while quite different in look are equally strong not only vocally but in their acting abilities, turning songs into mini one act plays. The very strong score by Richard Maltby Jr and David Shire deals with relationships; new, old and yet-to-be. The songs are in a variety of styles and, for the most part, tell a story. Like all good stories, they have a beginning, a middle and an end. None of it gets lost thanks to the strong performances from the four exceptionally talented people on stage under the musical direction from Scott Storr and supported by the 4 excellent musicians led by pianist David Andrews Rogers . From comedy numbers like “Three Friends,” to a woman’s reflection on the choices she has made throughout her life, the cast nails each one. Janna Cardia’s renditions of “Life Story” in Act One and “Patterns” in Act Two were especially poignant. Julie Garnyé got the show off to a strong start with lots of laughs singing “You Wanna Be My Friend” and later turned up the heat singing the sultry “Back On Base.” Mr. Landman and Mr. Bullard shared a beautiful moment in Act Two with the touching duet “Fathers of Fathers.”
Jimmy Cuomo’s effective set, enhanced by Moira Wilkie Whitaker’s fluid lighting design, carried the theme of symbolically opening (and closing) doors throughout our lives with doors of various styles upstage used for the majority of the entrances and exits during the show and all interconnected by several levels of platforms.
All in all, it is an evening that will make you smile and occasionally tug at your heart strings with recognition of the universality of the events and emotions each song conveys.
CLOSER THAN EVER marks Ron Celona’s final duty as director before retiring at the end of the season and runs through March 20, 2022. For tickets and further information visit their website CVRep.org or call the box office at 760-296-2966 ext. 115.