If a book musical is a novel, then the revue of Closer Than Ever is 22 short stories reflecting the joys and heartbreaks of the middle-aged.
You haven't lived and loved if you can't relate to the sentiments expressed in the 22 songs of the David Shire/Richard Maltby Jr. musical that made its debut off-Broadway in 1989 and is revived by local stage troupe Dry Cold Productions. It has no dialogue or plot, just thematically linked tunes about what adults go through in their search for love, direction and fulfilment.
That journey is represented by doors, the primary image of Kari Hagness's simple set and the title of the opening number, in which four singers express their characters' growing uncertainty about how to proceed when opportunity knocks. Despite some dated references to Jane Fonda workouts, au pair girls and inspirational poet Kahlil Gibran, the situations still resonate, owing to universal truths about human needs.
Wednesday night's opening drew a surprisingly small audience, but those who did show up were rewarded with what comes across as an elaborate nightclub show with a quartet of local performers appearing in different combinations, introducing a parade of recognizable 40- to 50-year-old urbanites. Maltby, who wrote the lyrics to Miss Saigon, pens songs that are incisive and sharply crafted for Shire's pop, jazz-flavoured sound. The onstage pair of bassist Nenad Zdjelar and pianist Paul DeGurse, who also has a fine voice, proved able support.
The tone of Closer Than Ever is wistful, bittersweet and self-deprecating. It taps into our constant craving, as suggested in One of the Good Guys, in which a happily but not contentedly married husband wonders about missed romantic opportunities. He indicates that longing for a different door is never outgrown.
Performers Jennifer Lyon, Debbie Maslowsky, Peter Huck and Aaron Hutton must create these complex adults in an instant, with little help from props or costume.
Each of the singers was in fine voice. The brassy and bawdy Debbie Maslowsky had her winning way with comic crowd-pleasers such as Miss Byrd, a ditty about a seemingly dowdy, shy secretary secretly carrying on a torrid affair with her building's super, who is, well, super. She also donned cowboy boots and walked all over -- as well as lassoed -- the man who wanted to let her down easy in the angry anthem You Want to be My Friend?.
Lyon took on the show's emotional heavy lifting in Life Story, a poignant piece about a divorced, single woman who fought for women's rights but finds herself alone and musing about whether leaving her husband all those years ago was a mistake. She also wrenchingly inhabited a housewife stuck in a rut in Patterns.
Huck's voice has a pleasant, resonant tone ideal for If I Sing, a loving tribute by a son to his father about carrying on his musical legacy. He had more fun in the duet Fandango, in which a career-oriented couple fight over who will have to stay home with the baby when the sitter suddenly cancels.
Hutton made the most of One of the Good Guys and then appeared as one of the high-heeled gals in Three Friends. He showed a comic flair in What Am I Doin'?, in which a besotted man finds himself on the roof in the rain, wondering if his pursuit of his lover makes him guilty of stalking.
It was not obvious that Kimberley Rampersad was directing for the first time, although her fingerprints were all over some enhanced choreography. Closer Than Ever came in under two hours -- dropping a few less impactful songs to make it a tight, intermissionless 90 minutes might make it closer than ever to being all it could be.