Closer to Heaven
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|Closer to Heaven|
|Music||Pet Shop Boys|
|Lyrics||Pet Shop Boys|
|Productions||2001 West End
2010 Dallas, TX
2015 London, Union Theatre
Closer to Heaven is a musical by Jonathan Harvey and Pet Shop Boys. It was premiered in May 2001 at the Arts Theatre in London, opening to mixed reviews, and ran until 13 October 2001. A second production of Closer to Heaven was premiered in Australia in 2005.
The story is narrated by retired rock icon and actress Billie Trix (Frances Barber), who otherwise has a fairly small part in the story. The opening number, "My Night", is sung by Billie and the rest of the cast, and is used to introduce the characters.
Shell Christian (Stacey Roca), is going to see her estranged father, Vic Christian (David Burt), for the first time in years. Vic, who is gay, left Shell and her mother during her childhood, and now runs a successful gay club in London. Meanwhile, Straight Dave (Paul Keating), who has just arrived from Ireland, is working as a bartender at Vic's club, although his ambition is to be a dancer at the club. After seeing and speaking to her father, Shell meets Dave, and they immediately fall in love.
Record producer Bob Saunders (Paul Broughton) is a friend of Billie Trix and a regular at Vic's club. He sees Dave dancing and decides he wants to sign him for a boy band he is forming. He makes an offer to Dave, who has no interest in signing; however, Saunders continues to pressure Dave into working for him.
Dave meets and falls in love with drug dealer Mile End Lee (Tom Walker), who deals at Vic's club. Shell is devastated when she discovers that Dave is gay, although part of her has suspected it all along. Meanwhile, Vic discovers Lee dealing drugs in his club and confiscates the drugs. Lee is worried he will be killed for losing the drugs.
At this point, everyone gets high on ketamine - Shell is still upset about Dave, Lee is worried about being killed, Dave is frustrated that Lee has withdrawn from him, and Billie, a habitual user, needs no excuse. Unfortunately, Lee has a drug overdose and dies. At Lee's funeral, Dave sings a song, "For All of Us".
A few months later, Dave is apparently back on the road to success and sings "Positive role model" to end the show on a high.
Most of the songs that appeared in Closer to Heaven were specifically written for the musical because Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe did not want to produce a "jukebox musical" in the vein of Mamma Mia! or We Will Rock You. Several of the musical's songs were pre-released on the Pet Shop Boys' 1999 album Nightlife, including "Closer to Heaven", "In Denial", and "Vampires". Nightlife was recorded whilst they were writing Closer to Heaven and originally more of the album's tracks appeared in the musical. The oldest song is "Shameless", which originally appeared as the B-side to "Go West" in 1993.
- "My Night" - Billie Trix & Cast
- "Closer to Heaven" - Shell & Vic
- "Something Special" - Straight Dave
- "Positive Role Model" (instrumental)
- "Closer to Heaven" - Shell & Dave
- "In Denial" - Vic & Shell
- "Call Me Old Fashioned" - Bob Saunders
- "Nine Out of Ten" - Shell & Straight Dave
- "It's just my little tribute to Caligula, darling!" - Billie Trix (featured in rehearsal scene)
- "Hedonism (instrumental)"
- "Friendly Fire" - Billie Trix
- "In Denial" - Straight Dave & Shell
- "Something' Special" (reprise) - Straight Dave
- "Shameless" - Vile Celebrities
- "Vampires" - Vic
- "Closer to Heaven" - Straight Dave & Mile End Lee
- "Out of my System" - Shell with Billie Trix, Flynn & Trannies
- "K-Hole (instrumental - featuring an excerpt of "Run, girl, run!" - Billie Trix)"
- "For All of Us" - Straight Dave
- "Closer to Heaven" - Straight Dave
- "Positive Role Model" - Straight Dave
- "My Night" - The Cast
Cast Album release
An album, Closer to Heaven (Original Cast Recording), was released in October 2001 and was produced by Pet Shop Boys and Stephen Hague. The album featured studio recorded version of songs from the musical.
It was planned to release "Positive role model", as sung by Paul Keating, as a single before the album was released. Remixes by Almighty and Fergie were commissioned for use on the single, but plans were scrapped when the London production closed. These remixes remain unreleased, although the Almighty remix was available for a short time from the Pet Shop Boys' website and an edit of Fergie's remix appeared on dance compilation Headliners:03 in 2001.
A limited edition single of "Run girl run" by Billie Trix, a song based on the iconic Phan Thị Kim Phúc photograph from the Vietnam War, was available during later performances. The two track CD featured two versions of the track, of which brief snippets could be heard in "K-Hole". The versions featured were: "Run girl run (Original 1971 single version)" and "Run girl run (1981 post-apocalyptic nightmare mix)".
During the recording of the Pet Shop Boys' Nightlife album, there were many songs written for the musical that never made it to the final cut. Some of these songs have since been released as b-sides to Pet Shop Boys singles (for example the song "Nightlife" appeared as a b-side to "Home and Dry" in 2002) or been made available through the Pet Shop Boys' website, but many still remain unreleased. These songs include "Tall Thin Men","The Night Is The Time To Explore Who You Are", "You've got to start somewhere" and "Little Black Dress". The last of these, "Little Black Dress" has been covered by Pet Shop Boys covers band West End Girls and was released as a single in 2009.
Original London cast
- Billie Trix – Frances Barber (until 15 September); Amanda Harris (16 September to 13 October)
- Straight Dave – Paul Keating
- Shell Christian – Stacey Roca
- Mile End Lee – Tom Walker
- Vic Christian – David Burt
- Bob Saunders – Paul Broughton
- Flynn – David Langham
- Billie's Babes – Marcos White, Jo Cavanagh, Akiya Henry, C. Jay Ranger, Mark John Richardson, Richard Roe, Louie Spence, Mark Stanway
The original run of Closer to Heaven was from May 2001 to September 2001. This was extended to January 2002 because early performances were played to packed audiences. However, over the summer, audiences dwindled. In recent interviews, Neil Tennant has blamed this on poor marketing and bad press reviews. After the 11 September 2001 attacks, the Arts Theatre was worried about the continual fall of audience numbers across London and wanted a big audience puller, so Closer to Heaven closed on 13 October 2001. It was replaced with The Vagina Monologues.
When Closer to Heaven opened in London, the Pet Shop Boys said that there was interest from production companies all over the world, including New York and Germany.
In 2005, a short series of performances was produced by the Brisbane Powerhouse in Brisbane, Australia. The cast for the Australian production included:
- Billie Trix – Libby Munro
- Straight Dave – Regis Broadway
- Shell Christian – Crystal Taylor
- Mile End Lee – Joel Curtis
- Vic Christian – Chris Herden
- Bob Saunders – Chris Maver
- Flynn – David Dellit
- Billie's Babes – Joel Curtis, Olympia Kwitowski, Sarshee Elliot, Brad Kendrick, Remi Broadway, Ellen Casey
In December 2005, Pet Shop Boys announced that this production would be moving to Sydney to coincide with the Sydney Mardi Gras; however, the production was cancelled due to time constraints.
The first US production was scheduled for 1 to 24 October 2010, by Uptown Players in Dallas, Texas. The cast for this production includes:
- Billie Trix – Morgana Shaw
- Straight Dave – Evan Fuller
- Shell Christian – Lee Wadley
- Mile End Lee – Clayton Younkin
- Vic Christian – Jason Kane
- Bob Saunders – Coy Covington
- Flynn – Mikey Abrams
London Revival 2015
A revival of the show took place at the Union Theatre in May 2015. Due to overwhelming popularity a second run happened in Autumn 2015. This smaller scale production featured the 2012 song "Vocal" as the closing number instead of "Positive Role Model" and the reprise of "My Night". The original revival cast included Katie Meller as Billie Trix with Ken Christiansen as Bob and Ben Kavanagh as Flynn.