Picks and Pans Review: Closer Than Ever
Modern life has seldom sounded as melodic as it does in this off-Broadway hit. The all-singing, some-dancing compilation of songs by lyricist Richard Maltby Jr. and composer David Shire celebrates city life. The tribulations are cataloged: one-woman manifestos ("Life Story"), two-career households ("Fandango"), three-person affairs ("She Loves Me Not"). So are the treasures of city dwelling: the good life, the opportunities, the friends.
Maltby and Shire created the 1977 revue Starting Here, Starting Now and 1983's underrated musical Baby. Their subjects are modern, the songs happily old-fashioned, character studies that tell us more in three verses than we often get in three acts.
Even though some of the songs are nearly 30 years old and come from odd projects, the two-record set never plays like a dumping ground. And the four singers who enliven the show—Brent Barrett, Sally Mayes, Richard Muenz and Lynne Wintersteller—all possess the kind of rich theatrical voices that elevate a show tune. They could stop a show with "Row, Row, Row Your Boat."
This is an example of a now-rare species: the sophisticated musical revue with heart and smarts. (RCA Victor)