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Friday, 17 September 2010

Closer than Ever at The Landor Theatre

The Landor Theatre in Clapham is one hell of a cool haunt. Recently refurbished, this venue has never looked better. The theatre is above the Landor Pub, a friendly space with an expansive beer garden perfectly convenient for interval drinks. Artistic Director Robert McWhir keeps the focus on housing musical theatre.

This production marks the 21st Anniversary of Closer than Ever. The show is an award-winning musical revue, featuring 25 memorable songs by composers Maltby and Shire. The show, which contains no dialogue, was described by the writers as a ‘bookless book musical’. It presents the lives of four friends, and through self-contained songs tells of diverse real life topics like: mid-life crises, working couples, unrequited love, aging. The intimate nature of the theatre space means you are just a metre or two away from the actors on stage all the time. I could see every little expression and gesture making the show a lot more believable and affecting.

The cast is made up of experienced West End stars – Clare Burt, Michael Cahill, Ria Jones and Glyn Kerslake. Ria Jones was, for me the most striking, but then again she has all the best numbers. ‘Miss Byrd’, which is surely the most well-known song was delivered with devilish charm and cheek and was a complete pleasure to watch. I also loved ‘Patterns’ in the second act, a stark realisation about life and its inevitable let-downs.

The West End is evolving slowly with familiar classics like The Sound of Music and Cats making way for new musicals like Legally Blonde and Sister Act. I was hugely disappointed to see Spring Awakening come off the stage early here, and knowing the brilliant score well, can’t believe it didn’t interest audiences enough. It is great to see a new American musical making an impression on London audiences, hopefully Closer than Ever will get the recognition it deserves.

Closer than Ever runs at the Landor Theatre until Saturday 9 October.

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