If chocolates and flowers seem a bit mundane, Nashville's Street Theatre (1933 Elm Hill Pike) presents a perfect Valentine's weekend alternative with their first production of the new season, 'Closer Than Ever'. The show opens Friday, February 14 and continues thru Sunday, February 16 with performances Friday night at 8 p.m., Saturday at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. and a final show Sunday afternoon at 5 p.m.
'Closer Than Ever' never won a Tony. It never had a huge National Tour and it's likely most audience members have never heard of it at all. First mounted Off-Broadway in 1989, it might not have garnered a Tony nod, but it did receive an Outer Critics Circle award for Best Off-Broadway Musical. The show also enjoyed a 2012 Off-Broadway revival.
That's the beauty of Street Theatre Company. Street Theatre's founder and Executive Artist Director Cathy Street, who serves as director of this production of 'Closer Than Ever' is never afraid to take chances by bringing Nashville something a little different. With this show, she once again gives area theatre-goers the opportunity to see something other than you're run-of-the-mill big name musical.
To that end, Street has teamed four gifted vocalist: Scott Frazier-Maskiell, LaDarra Jackal, Wesley King and Mallory Gleason Mundy to bring this 22-song musical revue to life. With no dialogue, 'Closer Than Ever' is a rapid-paced musical journey, as the tagline of the title says, of 'love, life and everything in between'. The show opens with the all-in 'Doors', as the titles suggests, this tune is about options and choices. Wesley, one of the younger members of the cast, who I last saw onstage as Mr. Brooke in The Keeton Theatre's 'Little Women' is up first for 'She Loves Me Not', a seemingly sweet tune of first love that cleverly turns into an unrequited dysfunctional triangle with the help of LaDarra and Scott.
Next it's 'You Want to Be Friends?' featuring Mallory, one of my 'theatre crushes'. I fell in love with Mallory when I saw her in a local production of 'Into The Woods'. From this first featured number, Mallory commands the stage and the audience's attention. For this humorous tune, she's a southern sorority girl who has enough friends but is looking for something a little more meaningful.
Wesley is again featured in 'What Am I Doin''. It's the story of a school boy's crush that quickly turns to obsession. LaDarra, who was featured in Street Theatre's 'Hair: In Concert', takes a more practical approach to love as a scientist exploring the more animalistic expressions of love and desire in 'The Bear, the Tiger, the Hamster and the Mole'. Then it's time for Scott, last seen in Street Theatre's most recent show, 'Spamalot', to offer an inside look at the rigors of a hum drum husband in 'I'll Get Up Tomorrow Morning.
Mallory steals the show with her next number, 'Miss Byrd'. This number presents Mallory as a seemingly sweet secretary who knows a bit more about the birds and the bees than her office mates might suspect. Mallory plays playful to perfection.
Scott's back as 'One of the Good Guys' in which he's seen as a nebbish husband who contemplates a tawdry affair...but does he do it? Then the entire cast is featured in 'There's Nothing Like It', a fun look at vanity, attempts to stay young and doing what's expected.
LaDarra gets the show's most poignant number with 'Life Story'. As the title suggests, this one encapsulates the story of a woman who seems to have had her life perfectly planned only to have it work out not exactly as she'd hoped. While LaDarra is a bit young for this song, those thoughts quickly fade as her vocals more than step up to the challenge and she presents this number with the power needed.
Act One ends with 'Next Time/I Wouldn't Go Back' an optimistic, albeit cautious tune primarily featuring Wesley, then Mallory with Scott and LaDarra joining in to bring the first half of the show to an upbeat and hopeful end.
Act Two opens with 'Three Friends', featuring Mallory, LaDarra and Wesley (as one of the girls in name only). Staged the way this one is, with the upbeat tempo of the song and the fact that Mallory's hair is in pigtails high atop her head, this number reminded me of the opening sequence of that popular 1970s sitcom, 'Three's Company'. Instead of mishaps and pratfalls, this tune takes a more serious note as it examines longtime friendships and questions why we stay in relationships with people even though they're not the people we first thought them to be.
Another highlight of Act Two is next as Mallory and Wesley team up for 'There' Mallory delivers this one with an ironically seductive cabaret-style vocal performance. Ironic because the song end up being about someone who isn't exactly there after all. Wesley turns in what ends up being my personal favorite performance from him for the evening with his revealing retort.
The rest of Act Two continues to examine various aspect of love and life. 'Back to Base' once again showcases Mallory's ability to truly express a myriad of characters by voice talent and stage presence as she jazzes it up with the help of upright bassist Luke Easterling, who steps out from the sidelines to center stage for this soulful tune.
LaDarra again shows depth and emotion in 'Patterns', which explores the day to day drudgery of a housewife and mother who contemplates packing it all in and escaping. It's a nice mirror to Act One's 'One of the Good Guys'.
If I could cut, or at least trim one of the show's numbers, it'd be 'The March of Time'. For some reason, this song reminded me...in length only...of the Shari Lewis/Lambchop ditty, 'The Song That Never Ends.'
When it finally does end, it's time to feature the boys as Wesley and Scott present the passing of the torch of paternal bliss in "Fathers to Fathers'. This tune also includes an added bonus for regular patrons of Street Theatre, as the company's
Musical Director, Rollie Mains gets in on the action by providing guest vocals during this number.
The show nears its end with LaDarra and Mallory sharing the stage for 'It's Never That Easy' and 'I've Been Here Before' and a final all-in of the show's title tune. Ending the show on a hopeful note, 'Closer Than Ever' is another optimistic look at what the future brings as the four venture off through yet another door.
'Closer Than Ever' is being presented during Valentine's weekend with only four chances to see this surprisingly perfect tune-filled holiday gift wrapped in love and overflowing with talent. For tickets, CLICK HERE. Up next for Street Theatre Company is yet another off-the-beaten-path theatrical experience, 'Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson, which runs March 14-23. For tickets and more information, CLICK HERE.
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