Closer To Heaven, the visually stunning revival of the 2001 musical is most definitely not a Pet Shop Boys juke box musical. It’s more; boy meets girl… then girl sees boy being sucked off on security cameras in the gay club her estranged father owns, by a sexy East End drug dealing lad and all hell breaks loose… with some rather good songs by the Pet Shop Boys.
Written by Jonathan Harvey with the Pet Shop Boys this is no Mamma Mia or We Will Rock you, this is a, for the most part successful attempt to do something more interesting than those hyper commercial money makers. Set in the early 2000s it’s very much a modern version of Cabaret, with a sexy ‘straight’ boy arriving on the London club scene where he meets a collection of characters inhabiting this night time world of drugs and sexual freedom and there’s lots of both. Straight Dave played with a charming vulnerability by Blake Patrick Anderson meets daughter of the club boss, Shell, a passionate and effective Maddy Banks and drug dealer Mile End Lee played with swagger at first, which gives way to openness during the story, by Mikulas Urbank. This triangle is the heart of the story and the three young leads are very much the heart of this revival. Other stand out performances include Ian Hallard as the wretched Bob Saunders and Adele Anderson as Billy Trix, even though they both suffer slightly from comparisons to the original London castings, both difficult acts to follow. Billy’s character appears at first to be a fairly harsh uncaring diva, with touches of Frank N’Furter and Edna Mode, ‘But here we are’, but during the story she is revealed as more Earth Mother than Ursula and she does get the best song in the show, the haunting Friendly Fire. Unsurprisingly the music is strong throughout the show, the choice to write all new material was brave and paid off with stand out songs including Light Up The Night, In Denial, Shameless, Vampires and the title track which appears in various forms.
The story, complete with twists and turns hasn’t aged quite as well as the music; the behind the scenes parts at the club and record label feel too much like parodies to be believable and some of the scenes felt a tad flat, but overall this is an impressive and enjoyable revival. Once again the set and lighting are outstanding, kudos to David Shields and Jack Weir and the three young leads are a joy to watch.