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Review: CLOSER THAN EVER at CVRep

Closer Than Ever may not have a plot, but there is a connection that takes us through heartbreak, love, divorce, confusion, being single again, and second chances.

Review: CLOSER THAN EVER at CVRep I was fortune to be able to see the last production Ron Celona will direct in his role as artistic director at CVRep. He's once again delivered top-notch entertainment in the form of Closer Than Ever.

I will admit, I had never heard of Closer Than Ever until I asked a friend of mine to join me, and she was so excited. "It's my favorite musical, it has some wonderful songs," she gushed. She did not mention a plot. There's a reason for that, which I'll get to in a moment.

Before I do, let's talk about production values. Jimmy Cuomo's set is an oversized cityscape with rainbow stairs, and skyscrapers swathed in hues of pink, blue, seafoam, and violet. Within the cityscape are five doors that are a metaphor for life - when one door closes, another one opens. It is both dayscape and nightscape depending on the light cues in Moira Wilkie Whitaker's deft design. Nothing flashy, this show belongs to the music.

Frank Cazares costumes are minimalist as well: Everyone is dressed in theatre black, a great contrast to the set's colorful pastel palatte. Cazares adds the occasional color pop, or layer of clothing to give us a better feel for the age and circumstance of the character singing the song.

The musical director, the terrific Scott Storr, was the original pianist, but was called away by some family issues. Stepping in was David Andrews Rogers on piano, Kurt Kelly on keyboard, and Emiliano Villarreal on bass. These three are house left, and oddly, the percussionist (Dominique Torres) was on stage set apart from the rest of the band. I stopped trying to figure out why by the second musical number as I became more and more intrigued by the show.

My playbill says it's a musical review, but I don't think it's quite that. It's not an operetta either, but it has leanings. It's not a variety show, but there is variety. And so I looked to creators David Shire (composer) and Richard Moltby, Jr. (lyricist) to see how they describe it, and the answer is: bookless musical.

That is not as satisfying as I want it to be, but okay. I mean, they should know. They wrote it, right?

I let go trying to figure out that too because each note was better than the last, each song brings a different mood, and now I've forgotten about the percussionist's placement, or what genre to call the show, and I am just watching because a helluva lot of talent went into this production, and these are clearly some fabulous vocalists singing some curious songs.

Review: CLOSER THAN EVER at CVRep

Celona's cast consists of Julie Garnyé, Janna Cardia, Jeffrey Landman and Michael Bullard and they are a terrific match for each other. Their voices blend together beautifully, and are equally as good in solo numbers.

There are a few moments I'd like to shout out:

Celona's tableaus. I can't really explain that, you'll have to see it to get it but they're definitely worth noting.

Garnyé's, Miss Byrd, a fun and racy number about a realtor in love. I don't think I've ever heard the word "nipple" used in a song before, so that was new.

Landman and Bullard's Fathers of Fathers has the two joined in some magical harmonies that reached into your chest cavity and plucked right at your heart strings. Beautiful.

Cardia is the first soprano, and every moment she is on stage she is spellbinding. Although everyone did a terrific job - Cardia performed. I bought into each one of her characters, and understood every nuance within it. Two memorable songs were Life Story, and Patterns, but Cardia is eye-catching throughout.

Lastly, I would like to talk about Michael Bullard's voice. It is quite possibly the richest, most buttery tone I have ever heard. Celona not only did us a favor in casting Bullard, but huge props to him as well for the gender swap in One of the Good Guys. Bullard completely devastated the crowd with his vocals and the message. It was extraordinary..

Closer Than Ever may not have a plot, but there is a connection that takes us through heartbreak, love, divorce, confusion, being single again, and second chances. It very much feels like listening in on a private conversation or someone singing their inner-most thoughts - and there's nothing I like better than trying to understand how someone else ticks.

Once I let go and let Ron, I settled into a very memorable, and beautifully cast show.

Tickets: runs through March 20, Tuesday through Sunday

Photography by Jim Cox.

CVRep Website

CVRep is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit professional theatre company, that proudly has Small Professional Theatre (SPT) status with Actors' Equity.



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