There’s no witch, no chocolate factory, no helicopter or revolutionary barricade, just four singers, five doors, a piano and a bass. And yet Closer Than Ever, nestled in the pocket-sized Jermyn Street Theatre, has to be one of the hottest musical theatre tickets in London.
Why? Let’s start with the performers, four talented veterans who have between them led dozens of companies, and who switch easily between warm ensemble work and mesmerising star turns. Then we have the extraordinary material of this song cycle revue: David Shire’s jaunty, jazzy tunes, which turn on a dime into aching laments, beautifully supporting lyricist Richard Maltby, Jr’s droll, perceptive observations of life’s absurdities.
Maltby also directs this affectionate revival of their 1989 off-Broadway hit, which peeks behind the façade of adulthood. There’s a thematic through line, otherwise this is more a collection of New York-set short stories, written in the Nora Ephron mode of confessional wit and wisdom. The best contain delicious twists, knowing winks, and a balance of comic frankness and naked emotional truth.