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Brief Encounter With ... The Cast of Closer Than Ever

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The 21st anniversary production of Closer Than Ever at the Landor Theatre is a star studded revival of the musical revue, featuring 25 songs by composers Maltby and Shire. Their music turns an unblinking and frank spotlight on lives and loves, relationships and fantasies, wicked satire and the ache of love unrequited or dimmed by time.

Closer Than Ever has cast of West End stars including Clare Burt whose recent credits include Carla in musical revival of Nine; Michael Cahill, who created the title role in Martin Guerre; Ria Jones, the youngest ever Eva Peron in Evita and Glyn Kerslake, best known for his time as the Phantom in The Phantom of the Opera.

Can you tell me a little bit about what attracted you to the piece?

Clare Burt: The fact that it's a bookless 'book musical'. Every song has something important to say about my age. Mid-life is strange because you don't realise that you stepped into it but when suddenly it hits you, you literally think 'when did that happen? When did I start wearing long cardigans to hide my middle-age spread?' And this show recoils from AND embraces the horrors and joys of getting older. It’s very encouraging to be with a group of actors who are the same generation and can all laugh at it, at life. because you have to!

Glyn Kerslake: The songs, the cast, the venue.

Michael Cahill: It's a great opportunity for four oldies to flex their muscles with great music and lyrics. If the audience have as good a time as we have rehearsing we're onto a winner.

Ria Jones: Having never sung Maltby & Shire much before, it seemed a wonderful opportunity to discover new songs, and have the chance to collaborate and share the stage with performers I have long admired.

Can you tell us a little bit about the show?

CB: Ria will be naked in it. It is about the joys of growing up. It articulates thoughts we never knew we had.

GK: It’s a unique blend of storytelling songs that show the joys and pitfalls of life for complex humans of a certain age!

MC: Maltby and Shire are brilliant marrying the extraordinary with the ordinary and holding a mirror up to us all and we all sing very loudly quite alot of the time.

RJ: It will make you laugh, cry, drool over gorgeous melodies. And question your own path in life, and leave, feeling every emotion has been explored.

What's your favourite song from the show?

CB: "Life Story" because it touches us all.

GK: "The Diva Duet"!

MC: This one's a trick question. I don't want to come in one night and find the legs cut off my costume if I favour anyone song. Honestly it changes as each time I hear a song there is something else to discover in there. Testament to good writing I say.

RJ: "It’s Never That Easy"... Honestly? For the simple fact of sharing a beautifully written female duet with Care Burt.

Do you prefer revues or book musicals, and why?

CB: Both - they both have different things to offer. But as I mentioned before, this is like a bookless book musical. It is full and rich and you need to have actors who can sing in order for it to work. Revue seems to be a bit of a dirty word in the UK but in NYC it's as exciting and applauded as any other art form. I think we have hangover ideas from maybe a less exciting decade.

GK: Book – it’s usually more interesting.

MC: They are two very different animals and in Closer we get to explore lots of different scenarios/characters and then leave them behind and hand the baton to someone else. The songs each tell a complete story. It's fun not to have the confines of a book keeping you in one world.

RJ: I don't have a preference. They can be equally as powerful if executed correctly.

All of you have played big West End roles and Closer Than Ever, in contrast, is a fringe show. How does it feel to be performing to just 60 people a night?

CB: It'll be lovely. I love smaller theatres. Love them. I decided a while ago that I would only do work that gave me a bubble of excitement. This did that.

GK: I love the intimacy.

MC: It's frightening however many there are watching and particularly when they are close enough to count how many fillings we have. It's important to keep exploring and inventing and bless you for calling us stars!

RJ: I love performing in intimate venues. You really feel the audience are on the ride with you. Warts and all, as they say! Both scary and exciting at the same time.

Can you tell us a little bit about your favourite role and show from your career to date?

CB: That's too hard! Carla in Nine because it is a great, great piece of writing and because I adored David Leveaux the director and because I met my partner and father to our two beautiful babies - Larry Lamb; The Witch in Into the Woods because - well, where to start? Because of the company, the closeness to Stephen Sondheim, that score! Maggie in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof because I didn't know if I could do it but I leapt and I survived and I learn’t. Oh God - there are so many more! This is like Desert Island Discs: impossible - ok so Fosca in Passion and Grizabella in Cats. There you go!

GK: John Wilkes Booth in Assassins.

MC: I think it has to be playing a Badger in a skin in Snow White a hundred years ago. I was so ill on Boxing Day I threw up over the front row of happy kids and ruined their day.

RJ: Reno Sweeney in Anything Goes. Sometimes you can't beat an old fashioned feel-good musical to feel you've really "Entertained"!

And what one role you would really kill to do?

CB: Blanche Dubois in A Streetcar Named Desire.

GK: Robert in Company.

MC: I would love to play Norman in The Dresser or any Arthur Miller.

RJ: Mamma Rose in Gypsy. One day!

Closer Than Ever runs at the Landor Theatre from 15 September to 9 October 2010 (previews from 14 September).


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