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Closer to Heaven | Turbine Theatre

The revival of Closer to Heaven, a musical written by Jonathan Harvey with music and lyrics by the Pet Shop Boys and directed by Simon Hardwick, offers a flamboyant and spirited return to the stage at the Turbine Theatre. Nearly two decades after its initial premiere in 2001, the show transforms the theatre into a dazzling nightclub, complete with neon lights, disco balls and VIP tables, setting the stage for a visually stunning, kitschy, and campy extravaganza.


The story centres on the journey of young and naive Dave, portrayed by Glenn Adamson, who arrives fresh from Ireland and finds himself navigating his sexual identity. Dave works as a dancer in a gay club, where he falls for both Shell Christian (Courtney Bowman), the club owner's daughter, and Lee (Connor Carson), a savvy local drug dealer. Fuelled with ambition to become a pop star, Dave turns to Bob Saunders (David Muscat), a shady music manager with his own designs on Dave's future. Dave's ally in this chaotic world is the club's hostess, Billie Trix (Frances Ruffelle), a former 70s rock icon clinging to her past glories and a haze of narcotics.


Theatre legend Ruffelle embodies the role with a blend of absurdity and decadence, perfectly capturing the spirit of a diva who thrives in the sleazy underworld. A secondary plotline follows Shell as she reunites with her estranged father and club owner, Vic Christian (Kurt Kansley). Kansley delivers an outstanding performance, particularly shining during his rendition of Vampires, a song that carries significant emotional weight and showcases his powerful vocals.

Adamson's portrayal of Dave is compelling, exuding a blend of sexual energy and earnest ambition. His singing is solid, complementing the electro-pop beats that drive the show. However, it is Bowman who truly stands out, delivering a vocally impressive and emotionally nuanced performance as Shell. The ensemble, under the choreography of Christopher Tendai, dazzles with their energetic, slick, and sexy dance moves, adding to the colourful and immersive club experience.


Despite its strengths, Harvey's book struggles, with the first half feeling overly clunky and meandering. The narrative gains momentum towards the end of the first act, as tensions rise and the characters' conflicts come to a head. Plot gaps and dramaturgical flaws are present, but they are largely overshadowed by the infectious music of the Pet Shop Boys, which is sure to thrill fans of the band.


The highlight of the production is Jack Weir's lighting design, which plays a crucial role in creating the show's electric atmosphere. Neon lights, lasers, and strobes pulse and undulate in sync with the drama, making the lighting an integral part of the storytelling and proving Weir's mastery of his craft.


At its core, Closer to Heaven succeeds through its energetic synth-pop score and the vibrant atmosphere it creates rather than through its drama. It may not be a sophisticated piece of theatre, but it promises a night of unabashed fun and entertainment that makes you want to dance the night away. As Pride Month unfolds, Closer to Heaven is a must-see for those looking to revel in a show that not only entertains, but also embraces and celebrates the queer experience with its decadent, fabulous flair.


Closer to Heaven plays at the Turbine Theatre until 30th June. For information and tickets, follow the link here.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (4*)

Gifted tickets in return for an honest review | photography by Mark Senior


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