Sometimes its pays to clean out your closet – or, in the case of songwriters Richard Maltby Jr. and David Shire, to clean out files. Sacramento Theatre Company’s new production, “Closer Than Ever,” an occasionally charming, often-forgettable chamber musical revue, got its start as an evening of Maltby and Shire outtakes called “Next Time, Now!”
Then it was a modest one-hour, one-act show of songs or song pieces the pair had written for other shows but didn’t use, culled from what they called their “Urban Files.” Maltby and Shire, who were Yale classmates, have had solid careers in and out of musical theater together and separately. Shire songs have been recorded by Barbra Streisand, Melissa Manchester, Maureen McGovern and Johnny Mathis, among others. He wrote the scores for the Broadway shows “Baby” and “Big.” Maltby knows his way around a revue, having conceived and directed the only two musical revues to win Tony Awards for best musical, “Ain’t Misbehavin’ ” (1978) and “Fosse” (1999).
The beefed-up “Closer Than Ever,” with its two-man, two-woman cast, has an overlong two acts and 25 songs. Director Robert Marra’s even-tempered production features Nick Adorno, Andrea St. Clair, Kristen Heitman and Jerry Lee singing in combination and solo about the joys and sorrows of middle-aged WASP-hood. The songs alternate between cuter comic observations and serious meditations more maudlin than deep. Eventually it all overstays its welcome as the slight strengths fade. These are, after all, songs that didn’t make the first cut.
The clean-cut vocalists don’t engage the audience between songs, as each is meant to be its contained narrative. The evening gets off to a promising start with the quartet singing the clever “Doors,” which suggests the impromptu nature of our unknowable lives and the directions we take. Adorno, St. Clair and Lee then form an alternative trio of would-be lovers in “She Loves Me Not.”
The revue hums along quaintly until it gets to superficial heavier songs, such as “What Am I Doing?” and “One Of the Good Guys” (both sung by the amiable Adorno), which just aren’t melodically or lyrically interesting enough to carry their thematic weight.
The bright Heitman puts on a feisty energetic front and has success with the songs “You Want To Be My Friend?” and “Miss Byrd.” The beautifully full-voiced St. Clair takes on “Life Story” and “Patterns,” about disappointed women. Act Two’s “Three Friends” with Adorno, St. Clair and Heitman, and “Fandango” with the lush robust voice of Lee and St. Clair, have sparks of ingenuity.
“Closer Than Ever” feels like less would have been more. There is fine entertainment along with some unneeded dullness.
Call The Bee’s Marcus Crowder, (916) 321-1120. Follow him on Twitter @marcuscrowder.