VA Rep’s latest production at Hanover Tavern, “Maltby and Shire’s Closer Than Ever,” is a musical revue, in that there is no dialogue or plot, just musical numbers one after the other. Replacing the previously scheduled, “A Lug Nuts Christmas,” the theme of the revue, directed by Bruce Miller, revolves around getting older. Many of the numbers focus on love, career choices, having children and the like. I found that several of the songs hit a chord with me and my theatre companion and Richard Maltby Jr.’s lyrics to be very insightful and often funny.
The cast of four is features Robyn O’Neill, Russell Rowland, Janine Serreseque, and Terence Sullivan. O’Neill is very charming and I thoroughly enjoyed her performance of “You Wanna Be My Friend.” The supremely talented, Sullivan, gives a performance that is strong and emotive. Serreseque and Rowland are quite talented vocally and really anchor the cast. The musical direction by Leilani Giles was fabulous and her dynamic piano stylings were on point as usual.
The set is very minimal, almost too minimal. The set and costumes are supposed to be modeled off club performances, and performers, in NYC in the 1980s. While I get what VA Rep was going for here, it would have been nice to have something to look at; some artwork, a little decoration here or there, to make the tavern stage feel like the intimate NYC club they were aiming for. I did not find the costumes to be very exciting no matter how sparkly the ladies tops were. The best technical aspect of this production is Chase Kniffen’s light design, which is dramatic and well executed.
Apparently the show has not been well received as Miller felt compelled to insert a page into the program asking patrons to contact him personally if they did not enjoy the performance. I attended Sunday’s matinee and overall people seemed to enjoy the show, but were definitely not as excited as they have been at previous shows VA Rep has done at the Tavern.
Jen Maciulewicz is theatre critic for GAYRVA.com and is a Richmond local. Jen attended VCU and holds a B.S. in Anthropology. She has starred as Reno Sweeney in Cole Porter’s “Anything Goes" and attended VCU’s School of Music. Follow Jen on Twitter at www.twitter.com/jenlaumac.