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Though the critics have been far from kind, Sir Elton John loved the new Pet Shop Boys and Jonathan Beautiful Thing Harvey collaboration Closer To Heaven. "I thought it was absolutely brilliant, I thought it was one of the most incredible nights I have had at the theatre for a long time. It has great music, a great story and great performances. I would give it 11 out of 10." And it has to be said that some gay critics have just loved this new musical. 'Once the go-go boys starting taking practically everything off, it's just like being in a gay disco' wrote one.
The show opened at London's Arts Theatre on May 31st and there's no doubt audiences love it. As you would expect from Pet Shop Boys and Jonathan Harvey, this is not your average musical. It is a riotous story of sex, drugs, clubland and the music industry but at its heart is a love triangle. Straight Dave, a sexy young barman fresh from Ireland falls for the beautiful, ambitious club manager's daughter Shell and the young, street-wise drug dealer Mile End Lee. The iconic Billie Tricks played by Frances Barber oversees the action while the outrageous pop band manager Bob Saunders has his own plans for Straight Dave. As fame and fortune beckon, Dave has difficult decisions to make.

'Closer To Heaven' features 15 new songs from Pet Shop Boys, and electrifying club choreography by Billy Elliot's Peter Darling. "We've always liked the theatre and our live shows have had very strong theatrical elements," says Neil Tennant. "We've wanted to do a musical for ages because we wanted to see if it was possible to put contemporary pop music onto the stage." The songs are vintage Pet Shop Boys though the writing process was different. "We've had to write songs to progress the plot so we've written to a brief," Chris Lowe explains. "But stylistically the music is Pet Shop Boys music. That's the whole point of it." Coinciding with the opening of the musical all six PSB studio albums are being reissued in a remastered double CD format with bonus tracks and interviews. More details here.

The seeds of 'Closer To Heaven' were first planted eight years ago when the BBC wanted to commission a musical and suggested that Neil and Chris work with Jonathan Harvey. They saw his play 'Beautiful Thing' and subsequently approached Jonathan with the idea of collaborating on a musical. They decided they would come up with an original story rather than base their musical on an existing book or film. The three of then sat down and came up with the basic idea for the 'Closer To Heaven' plot and the principal characters over a few months. Jonathan began to write the script while Neil and Chris wrote the music.

Over the last six years the project has reached fruition. "Sometimes Jonathan has suggested ideas for songs and sometimes we've suggested scenes and Jonathan has written them," says Neil. "It's been a lot of fun working with him." "We hope that it's going to be very different from anything anyone's ever seen before on a London stage," says Chris Lowe. "We haven't set out to do a big West End musical," adds Neil Tennant. "It's an attempt to do something new - contemporary drama with contemporary music."

Performances are Mondays to Thursdays at 8pm, Fridays at 6pm and 9:15pm and Saturdays at 4pm and 8pm. Tickets are 18.50, 22.50 and 28.50 for the Monday to Thursday and Friday at 6pm performances, and 20, 24 and 30 for the 9:15 performance on Fridays and both performances on Saturdays. Tickets are available from the Arts Theatre Box Office on 020 7836 3334.

 

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