Closer to Heaven

Previewed 15 May 2001, Opened 31 May 2001, Closed 13 October 2001 at the Arts Theatre

The 'Pet Shop Boys' musical Closer to Heaven in London starring Frances Barber, Paul Keating and David Burt

Dave, young, sexy and fresh from Ireland, falls for beautiful, ambitious Shell and streetwise drug dealer Mile End Lee. Billie Tricks, seventies rock icon and now hostess of a glitzy London nightclub, is there when they need to turn to 'mother'. Meanwhile the outrageous Bob Saunders, pop manager extraordinaire, has his own plans for Dave. As fame and fortune beckon, Dave quickly learns that things aren't always as straightforward as they seem.

Musical with music and lyrics by Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe (AKA Pet Shop Boys) and book by Jonathan Harvey.

The cast features Frances Barber as 'Billie Tricks', Paul Keating as 'Straight Dave', David Burt as 'Vic Christian', Stacey Roca as 'Shell Christian', Paul Broughton as 'Bob Saunders', David Langham as 'Flynn', and Tom Walker as 'Mile End Lee', with Jo Cavanagh, Akiya Henry, C Jay Ranger, Mark John Richardson, Richard Roe, Louie Spence, Mark Stanway, Amanda Valentine, and Marcos White.

Directed by Gemma Bodinetz, with choregraphy by Peter Darling, designs by Es Devlin, lighting by Mark Henderson, and sound by Simon Baker.

Frances Barber's London theatre credits include the roles of 'Anna' in Patrick Marber's production of his play Closer at the Lyric Theatre in 1998; 'Eliza Doolittle' in Howard Davies' revival of George Bernard Shaw's Pygmalion at the National Theatre's Olivier Theatre in 1992; and 'Maxine Faulk' in Richard Eyre's revival of Tennessee Williams' The Night Of The Iguana at the National Theatre's Lyttelton Theatre in 1992.

Paul Keating's London theatre credits include the roles of 'Agon' in Steven Dexter's production of the Laurence O'Keefe and John Claflin musical La Cava at the Victoria Palace Theatre and transfer to the Piccadilly Theatre in 2000; and the title role of 'Tommy' in Des McAnuff's revival of the Pete Townshend and The Who musical Tommy at the Shaftesbury Theatre in 1996.

David Burt's London theatre credits include the roles of 'Talleyrand' in Francesca Zambello's production of the Andrew Sabiston and Timothy Williams musical Napoleon at the Shaftesbury Theatre in 2000; 'Menelaus' in Trevor Nunn's revival of William Shakespeare's Troilus and Cressida at the National Theatre's Olivier Theatre in 1999; 'Pontius Pilate' in Gale Edwards' revival of the Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice musical Jesus Christ Superstar at the Lyceum Theatre 1996; and 'Enjolras' in the original cast of Trevor Nunn and John Caird's production of the Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schonberg musical Les Miserables at the Barbican Theatre, and transfer to the West End's Palace Theatre in 1985.

"There are bad musicals, dire musicals and now there's Closer To Heaven. This is the eagerly anticipated show with music and lyrics by The Pet Shops Boys... Playwright Jonathan Harvey's story is set in a gay nightclub... Add a fat, very nasty band producer; a cartload of sequinned jockstraps and some limp-wristed stereotypes from a Seventies sitcom, and you've got the picture. It's a night of overdoses, bad trips, funerals and bum jokes. The one saving grace (the music, incidently, is repetitive, pastiche plagiarised from Pet Shop Boys previous albums) is the presence of Francis Barber. She plays Billie Trix, a sixties survivor who guzzles drugs by the kilo and gives us all a laugh - and a break... As new West End musicals go, it's disappointingly stuck up in its own ghetto." The Daily Express

"Gay clubbers might conceivably find something to relish here. Your favourite auntie would be appalled. I was merely numbed with disappointment. The biggest disaster is that nothing in the show rivals the addictive, rancid meringue of synthesised sound of the Pets at their best, even though three of the numbers, including the title song, come from their last release, Nightlife... Connoisseurs of terrible musical theatre openings will want to catch Frances Barber as the disco diva Billie Trix - a sort of unholy alliance of Lou Reed's Nico and Mick Jagger's Marianne Faithfull - snorting cocaine and erupting as the star turn in the nightmare PVC and leather transsexual dance club... And the final sequence of death, despair and new resolution is almost unwatchable in its maudlin sentimentality." The Daily Mail

"The plot revolves around a bisexual love triangle. Straight Dave (played ineffectually by Paul Keating) has moved to London from Northern Ireland and landed a job as a barman. He falls for the sweet, if dull Shell (Stacey Roca) but his head is turned by the small-time drug dealer Mile End Lee (an even more ineffectual Tom Walker). Cue bare breasts, bare bums, and an identity crisis... Harvey's script staggers under the weight of in-jokes and now-isms with its laboured references... Even the music, something the Pet Shop Boys really should have got right, is bafflingly bland here... The only saving grace of this whole fiasco is the choreography, masterfully created by Peter Darling, and some smart set designs. But aside from that, it is cliche after awful cliche... Closer to heaven? I'd say it's nearer purgatory." The Independent

Closer to Heaven in London at the Arts Theatre previewed from 15 May 2001, opened on 31 May 2001, and closed on 13 October 2001