Closer to Heaven
Rating: ★★★★
Venue: Turbine Theatre, London
Cast: Frances Ruffelle, Courtney Bowman, Glenn Adamson, Connor Carson, Kurt Kansley, David Muscat, Lewis James, Beth Curnock, Cian Hughes and Jamie Tait

Let us take you back to the Millennium for the night of your life. Suddenly what was wrong seems right. The Turbine Theatre is proud to present a new production of this adored club musical.

With a book by one of Britain’s most celebrated writers, Jonathan Harvey and the iconic sounds of Pet Shops Boys this promises to be anything but old fashioned.

Closer to Heaven
first premiered over two decades ago at the Arts Theatre in London. Back in 2001, I'd say this musical was slightly ahead of its time and seems to work far better with audiences today. Since its premiere, Closer to Heaven has had two off-West End runs, as well as a premiere in Australia and even a spin-off show in Edinburgh Fringe!

The Turbine Theatre has been transformed into 'Vic's Club', and the design from David Shields is somewhat remarkable. I was sat at one of the cabaret tables to the side of the haze-filled stage and the closeness to both the actors and the action allows you to fully immerse yourself into the production. With effective lighting and sound design from Jack Weir and Dan Samson, its easy to forget you're not in a London nightclub.

The story follows several plotlines throughout, the focal point being a love triangle between drug dealer Lee, aspiring singer Dave and the club owner's daughter, Shell. There's also the exploration of the difficult relationship between Shell and club owner, Vic, and a deep-dive into the life of the has-been hostess of the club, Billie Trix. 

The book by Jonathan Harvey is somewhat lacking, with seemingly too many subplots to truly be invested in them all. The only plot of the evening that offers any kind of emotional connection is the one between Dave (Glenn Adamson) and Lee (Connor Carson). The slow build of their relationship is intoxicating, and easy to root for. Carson seems able to play the damaged bad boy with ease and I only wish he'd had more time on stage.

Tony award-winning Frances Ruffelle is certifiably bonkers as Billie Trix. From the over-the-top accent, to the quirky movements and vulgar language throughout; what sounds like it shouldn't work, does. She's nothing short of exceptional in this role, and creates the drug-induced fever dream atmosphere that this production needs. With one-liners like, "how dare you walk away from my orgasms?", it's a portrayal you won't soon forget. 

The music and lyrics from the Pet Shop Boys is the perfect blend of pop and synth. David Muscat has very limited time to shine on stage as sleazy record producer, but he takes the opportunity with both hands and is outrageously hilarious in "Call Me Old-Fashioned" and "Shameless".

Other standout numbers from the evening include, "Out of My System", performed by the ridiculously talented Courtney Bowman and this cast's brilliant ensemble. The choreography from Christopher Tendai in, "It's Just My Little Tribute to Caligula, Darling" is a highlight of the evening. And the duet, "Closer to Heaven", performed by Connor Carson and Glenn Adamson is a quietly beautiful moment  among the chaos between our two young male leads; both excelling vocally.

The entire production feels like a drug-induced fever dream, in the best way. A disco drama that doesn't disappoint, with an exceptional cast at its heart.

You can book tickets to Closer to Heaven at the Turbine Theatre, here.

**photo credit: Mark Senior**

No comments