Closer Than Ever

★★
theatre review | Read in About 2 minutes
Published 10 Aug 2015

This musical revue has the distinct feel of a school production – which isn't surprising, as it's performed by Ophiuchus Rising, a company from Washington, D.C. comprising college-bound and current students.

Richard Maltby, Jr. and David Shire's Closer Than Ever is a collection of songs tackling everything from post-divorce regrets to life's frustrations distilled into a cramped, rush-hour subway journey. There's a nice spikiness to the lyrics and a wry sense of perspective that balances out the show's more earnest moments.

It's nice to be able to hear the score, played by a live pit orchestra, blossom in the space afforded by Edinburgh's Augustine United Church. And the 30-strong troupe bring real enthusiasm to their performances. But Christopher Gerken's production is scrappy, with clunky stock footage back-projections and lighting.

There are also some quite frankly bizarre staging decisions. While having one of the singers of 'She Loves Me Not' pretending to be wanking is surprisingly amusing, involving a ball gag and whip in 'You Wanna Be My Friend' turns a funny song into a jarringly odd S&M fantasy.

But perhaps the biggest problem is audibility, thanks to the lack of mics. Too often it's difficult to make out the lyrics when they're sung by the quieter members of the ensemble, whose performances are rarely big enough to help us out. 

It's a shame to knock a young company whose commitment to their show is clear, and there are some fun moments in Closer Than Ever. But, sadly, this rough-around-the-edges production feels more high school musical than polished revue.