Closer To Heaven review, Above The Stag Theatre

The latest production of the Jonathan Harvey/ Pet Shop Boys musical runs all month

This noughties musical, currently revived at Vauxhall’s LGBTQ theatre, is now unbelievably getting on for 20 years old.

Written back in 2001 by Jonathan Harvey (Beautiful Thing, Coronation Street) with Pet Shop Boys, and set against the backdrop of Soho’s gay nightlife, it tells the rather wafer-thin story of Dave (an appealing Blake Patrick Anderson), a young dancer from Ireland. When he takes a job bartending in a Soho nightclub, he finds himself with a new, unconventional family, headed up by iconic performer Billie Trix (a well-cast Adele Anderson).

It’s my second time seeing the play, and while Steven Dexter’s production is visually stunning, with its pulsating lighting and nightclub set design, it doesn’t quite scale the heights of the under-the-arches Union Theatre revival five years ago.

But the catchy songs by masterful pop duo Tennant and Lowe save the day. There are too many highlights to mention, but the title number is as haunting as ever, and soaringly powerful closing ballad For All Of Us surely needs a re-release as single. Upbeat numbers like opener The Night (breathlessly choreographed by Ashley Luke Lloyd),  classic PSB track Shameless and Call Me Old-Fashioned (convincingly sung by Ian Hallard’s music promoter Bob Saunders) add energy to the proceedings, but a couple of the tracks – like a clipped Out Of My System – don’t take off as they should.

The lingering issue remains with the book, however: the storyline and characters just don’t quite cut it, despite a dark denouement, so perhaps something of a rewrite is needed to make the play the real LGBTQ classic it deserves to be.

As it is, it remains a fun cult watch – with, of course, brilliant music.

Closer To Heaven runs till 31st August at Above The Stag, Victoria Embankment SE1, tickets here

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