When I turned 10 years old, my mom took me to see my first Broadway show. Since I had reached the double digits, she thought I was ready to see New York City for the first time and experience live theater. I come from a long, long line of theater nuts — my mom saw Grease on Broadway 37 times. And when it comes to her and I, the apple does not fall far. We more or less like everything the same (really the only difference between her and I is that I’m a more adventerous eater) so she just knew I would love the theater like she did.
That birthday is one of my favorite childhood memories and quite frankly, shaped my entire life. We came to New York about 4 p.m. in the afternoon. Men and women were rushing everywhere — I remember so clearly seeing women in their business suits and running shoes and thinking that just looked so crazy. Everyone looked so busy, so important. I remember standing in Times Square, looking at a sign that said XXX (this was the pre-Giuliani era!) and for the life of me, I couldn’t figure out what that might spell. I asked my mom and she said, “I have no idea, either.” Shortly thereafter, we left Times Square. (I was suspicious, but didn’t connect the dots for several more years )
For the musical, we saw The Will Rogers Follies and I loved every second of it. The dancing and the singing in the show, combined with the energy of New York City — the entire day left an enormous impression on me at a young age. And it’s exactly why, 13 years later, I moved. To this day, it’s the only place I’ve ever visited and said to myself, I belong here. And my love of the theater has never died.
Recently, I received an invitation to view a revival of an Off-Broadway musical from 1989 called Closer Than Ever, which originally ran just one year before that fateful 10th birthday. The set is simple – six doors from which the actors enter and exit, made to look like any city apartment building hallway, except the walls are lit to look like a gorgeous, cloud-filled afternoon sky. It’s a perfect, easy backdrop for the two hours that follow, which are two acts worth of songs about love – its ups, its downs and its evolution. The X-factor though is that each and every song is hilarious.
With lyrics by Richard Maltby, Jr. and music by David Shire, there’s a little something for everyone in this show. My partner-in-crime and I for the evening found ourselves alternately laughing hysterically or near tears by the mix of tenderness and humor in each and every song. The opening number, “She Loves Me Not,” sets the tone – Female Neighbor A loves Male Neighbor B, but Male Neighbor B has his eyes on Male Neighbor C (we laughed), and winds through various versions of love and loss including pieces like “Life Story,” which details a woman looking back on her life after divorcing her husband in her 20s, but wondering if the independent life she’s led is worth it while still single in older age (we were blinking back tears.). You leave with a lot of great food for thought.
The cast is just four people, but each inhabits the different characters of each song like a second skin. You believe each and every one of them as they play their parts, such as a married man who thinks, but ultimately doesn’t act, on cheating on his wife while on a business trip (Sal Viviano in “One of the Good Guys”) to a meek real estate agent gettin’ it on with the super in one of her buildings (Jenn Colella in “Miss Byrd.”)
For anyone who loves love, loves musicals, loves the million ways we all fall in and out of love with each other in New York City every day, and most of all, loves that crazy combination of laughing through your tears — this is the perfect show. And the York Theater Company’s unassuming space in the lower level of Saint Peter’s Church on 53rd Street just enhances the whole experience. The show runs through July 14 and I wouldn’t miss it.
Closer Than Ever
Starring: Jenn Colella, George Dvorsky, Christiane Noll and Sal Viviano
Where: York Theater Company at St. Peter’s; 619 Lexington Avenue
When: Mondays & Tuesdays at 7:00 p.m., Wednesdays through Fridays at 8:00 p.m. and Saturdays at 2:30 p.m. & 8:00 p.m