By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Eric Nicholson
What's wrong with Closer to Heaven can be summed up in one scene: the tribute to Caligula. That's Caligula the porn film, not the Masterpiece Theatre version. It's worse than the Satan's Alley sequence in Stayin' Alive (the campy sequel to Saturday Night Fever). But with working-class British accents that turn curse words into "fook" and "shiite." The show ends with Dave belting out a disarmingly upbeat pop tune, "Positive Role Model," moments after burying his dead lover, who was, don't forget, a drug-dealing manwhore.
The cast at Uptown, poor darlings, keeps struggling to turn turkey into filet mignon. All the leads are good actors and strong singers. Newcomer Fuller has Bieber-like cuteness and a lovely falsetto. Lee Jamison Wadley, as spurned girlfriend Shell, looks lovely in her Marianne Faithfull bangs as she bangs out some big songs. Ms. Shaw delivers such a deeply layered turn as Billie Trix, someone should write a Dietrich tribute and put her in it. Her throaty singing is fun to listen to and her deftly timed delivery of Harvey's ghastly zingers is killer. The best: "My love life was like Vietnam...a lot of protests and then it all ended in the '70s."
Shrek the Musical continues through October 17 at the Music Hall at Fair Park. Call 214-631-2787.
Closer to Heaven continues through October 24 at Kalita Humphreys Theater. Call 214-219-2718.
Closer to Heaven closes out this season for Uptown Players. They did some good work, notably this summer's hit musical revue Forbidden Broadway, but they still haven't comfortably found a way to fit into the Kalita Humphreys space. Bruce Coleman has directed two shows there this year—Equus and Closer to Heaven—and he keeps throwing ugly outfits onto the graceful, curving lines designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. For the latest show, set designer Andy Redmon has stacked up a hodgepodge of painted platforms, staircases, metal scaffolding, Celtic crosses and, waving at each other upstage, two towering cutouts of naked male figures wearing giant wings. The aesthetic is tacky, dreary and heavy. With penises.