THEATRE REVIEW: Closer to Heaven starring Adele Anderson, Blake Patrick Anderson, Maddy Banks & Ian Hallard at Above The Stag

WORTH A LOOK?: ***

WHERE? Above The Stag RUNTIME: 130 minutes (with 20 minute interval)

WHEN? 7/7, opens 10/7 runs to 31/8/19

STOP PRESS: Tickets for MUSIK’s London run in September go on sale at 10am 29/7/19 here.

We saw the original production of this musical in 2001 and authors Jonathan Harvey and Pet Shop Boys have written a follow up of sorts featuring lead character Billie Trix which premieres at this summer’s Edinburgh Fringe.

  • Read on for reasons including ticket details for MUSIK at the Edinburgh Fringe in August

MUSIK is a 50-minute, one woman show which includes 4 new songs written for this show and will feature original Billie, Frances Barber, at Assembly Rooms (Bijou venue) from 5-24/8/19. Tickets

Pet Shop Boys said: ‘When we wrote Closer to Heaven almost 20 years ago, we loved the compelling outrageousness of the character Billie Trix as written by Jonathan and performed by Frances Barber. We have all discussed for many years the idea of creating her own one-woman show which would give us the chance to write more songs for her as she looks back on her incredible career. We’re thrilled that this show is finally happening.’

The reason we’re so excited by MUSIK is that Closer to Heaven works as a musical which is clear as we watch it again for the 1st time almost 20 years later. It boasts great songs, interesting characters and quotable lines offering some insight into the worlds of both nightclubs and pop music at the turn of the century.

Yet it’s also ahead of its time in terms of storyline as we meet Straight Dave (here played by an initially too quiet Blake Patrick Anderson who eventually makes up for it with oodles of boyish charm) who finds a London family at the nightclub where he first tends bar, later dances at and then … well that would be telling.

Along the way he meets and falls in love with nightclub owner’s daughter Shell (Maddy Banks played in The Band before this and has the best voice on show) as well as the sympathetic drug dealer Mile End Lee made believable by Mikulas Urbanek.

Part of the strength of this production is that the character roles are well cast: Christopher Howell sings strongly as club owner Vic Christian, Ian Hallard is appropriately devilish as pop manager Bob Saunders and Fascinating Aida’s Adele Anderson brings something even more worldly wise to Billie Trix.

Look out also for muscular dancer Rhys Harding, a name to watch out for in future, who boasts a seemingly effortless backflip in his repertoire.

Screen Shot 2019-07-12 at 21.53.17

Traditional musical fans will enjoy the Lloyd Webber-esque repeats of the refrains of key songs throughout including Closer to HeavenIn Denial and Something Special.

If you’re a Pet Shop Boys fan you’ll marvel at just how good these songs are but also why being so ahead of its time can be the only reason why it wasn’t a bigger hit. Our only minor gripe is that the original aimed to end on a high with Positive Role Model and its replacement Vocal (although fine in its original Pet Shop Boys form) is not quite its match.

This is a fringe no-frills version of a show that serves as a tasty appetiser ahead of MUSIK or before the inevitable return of a more lavish version of Closer to Heaven to deservedly slay the West End.

  • Picture by PBG Studios via Facebook courtesy Above The Stag. Tickets
  • Enjoyed this review? Follow its author on Twitter @NeilDurham, email neildurham3@gmail.com and check us out on Instagram and Facebook

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