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Theater review: 'Closer Than Ever' at GTC Burbank

August 14, 2009 |  5:00 am

#2 - Close Than Ever - Paul A bittersweet pang underlines the sly charm of "Closer Than Ever" at GTC Burbank, and therein lies its personalized reach. In presenting Richard Maltby Jr. and David Shire's 1989 revue as the penultimate show of its final season, Lodestone Theatre Company scores a communicative triumph.

"Closer" consists of 23 self-contained songs that thematically range from dating to divorce to midlife crises. Director Chil Kong's witty staging grabs us at the opening "Doors," effectively realized in set designer Luis Delgado's sliding portals. Each subsequent number unfolds like its own one-act play. Interpretive invention is unforced -- the child-care negotiations of "Fandango" involve female partners, the girl-talk of "Three Friends" sports a male participant, and so forth.

The wonderful Erin Quill inhabits "Life Story" with equal parts Margaret Cho and Debra Monk, while Kong makes "One of the Good Guys" a simply self-evident statement. Sharline Liu delights as secret swinger "Miss Byrd," and the resonant Paul Nakauchi risks overselling "If I Sing" to nail its emotional truth.

Nakauchi, Kong and DT Matias invest "Fathers of Fathers" with thrilling directness, and co-choreographer Blythe Matsui finds fresh layers in cabaret chestnut "Patterns." Their estimable work receives staunch support from EJ Arriola, Jully Lee, Jiehae Park and Miley Yamamoto. Under Akira Nakano's fine musical direction, the choral sweep turns such group items as "The March of Time" into showstoppers.

The poignancy in dedicating the production to co-choreographer Samuel RedRunningbear Savage, who passed away during rehearsals, outweighs certain swing choir elements. Such heartfelt intimacy counters fleeting quirks to float this ingratiating revival.

--David C. Nichols

"Closer Than Ever," GTC Burbank, 1111-B W. Olive Ave., Burbank. 8 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays, 2 p.m. Sundays. Ends Aug. 30. $20. (323) 993-7245. Running time: 1 hour, 45 minutes.

Photo: Paul Nakauchiin "Closer Than Ever." Credit: Nic Cha Kim

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