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Photo Flash: First Look at Maltby & Shire's CLOSER THAN EVER at ICT


Two dozen wise and witty "songs of experience" with charming melodies and smartly crafted lyrics.International City Theatre opens its 2016 season with a recently updated version of Closer Than Ever, the Outer Critics Circle Award winner for Best off-Broadway Musical that also netted Drama Desk nominations for lyricist Richard Maltby, Jr. and composer David Shire. Directed and choreographed by Todd Nielsen, with musical direction by Gerald Sternbach, and starring ICT favorites Kevin Bailey (Abigail/1702),Valerie Perri (The Sweepers), Adam von Almen (The Heir Apparent) and newcomer Katheryne Penny, Closer Than Ever opens February 12at ICT's home in the Long Beach Performing Arts Center. Two low-priced previews take place on Feb. 10 and Feb. 11.

Filled with hilarious and poignant songs about dating, parenting, aging and dreams both fulfilled and unrequited, Closer Than Ever is like a musical "how-to" manual for life. With each song a self-contained story inspired by real-life experiences, this "bookless book musical" forms an extraordinary collection of tales about ordinary people as they make their way through life - and its message to value the little things in life remains timeless.

"This is such a personal and human piece," says Nielsen. "It's all about who we are - where we've come from, what we're going through and what's still to come. Doors, opportunities and 'what ifs.' Hopes, regrets, musings. Dealing with new relationships, old relationships, family. I've always wanted to direct it, and am thrilled to be doing it at ICT."

"The show seems to speak to people," Maltby said in an interview. "It seems to have on-stage issues people don't see very much of in live theater. People connect to it. 'You have my own life up there,' or 'How did you know that about me?'"

Closer Than Ever marks Nielsen's ninth production with the company, including recent critically acclaimed productions of Let's Misbehave andMaster Class. His many other credits include award-winning productions of On the Twentieth Century, City of Angels, Rags, The Diviners, Working, A New Brain, You're a Good Man Charlie Brown, King of Hearts, The Robber Bridegroom, The Skin of Our Teeth and The Matchmaker,and he was resident director for the national tour of Disney's The Lion King.

Gerald Sternbach has musical directed numerous productions at ICT including last season's L.A premiere of Sondheim on Sondheim. During his six-year tenure as resident musical director for Reprise!, he was the recipient of multiple Ovation, Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle and Garland awards and nominations. He has accompanied a wide variety of artists, from Marilyn Horne, Jennifer Hudson, Josh Groban, Sarah Brightman and Carol Burnett to Adam Lambert, Nancy Wilson, Lainie Kazan, John Lithgow and Kelsey Grammar.

Lyricist Richard Maltby, Jr. (Miss Saigon, Fosse, Ring of Fire) and composer David Shire (film scores including The Conversation, The Taking of Pelham One Two Three and All The President's Men) began working together as students at Yale University. Their first Broadway credit as a team was in 1968, when their song "The Girl of the Minute" was used in the revue New Faces of 1968. Their shared credits include Baby (1983),Big (1996) and Take Flight (2007).

Set design for Closer Than Ever is by Stephanie Kerley Schwartz, lighting design is by Debra Garcia Lockwood; costume design is by Kim DeShazo, sound design is by Dave Mickey, props are by Patty and Gordon Briles, wigs are by Anthony Gagliardi, casting is by Michael Donovan Casting and the production stage manager is Pat Loeb.

Closer Than Ever runs Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m., Feb. 12 through March 6. Two preview performances take place on Wednesday, Feb. 10 and Thursday, Feb. 11 at 8 p.m. Tickets are $47 on Thursdays and Fridays, and $49 on Saturdays and Sundays, except opening night (Feb. 12), for which tickets are $55 and include a post-performance reception with the actors, and previews which are $35.

Photos by Tracey Roman

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