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Most of the songs in the aggressively bouncy little revue Closer Than Ever originated as unused lyrical scraps that Richard Maltby Jr. collected in his “Urban file” while writing the hit musicals Baby, Urban Blight, and Miss Saigon. Alas, at MetroStage, the mood is distinctly suburban—and the effect substantially diminished. Maltby and composer David Shire conceived the show as a sort of companion piece to their 1977 hit Starting Here, Starting Now, but with more established, older characters addressing the concerns of middle age—babies, divorce, regret—where their predecessors sang mostly about dating. The lyrics are clever, the music alternately propulsive and elegiac (often in the same song), and the emotions true enough. But the material is pushed much too hard in Brad Van Grack’s relentlessly cutesy staging, by performers who appear to have arrived on stage fresh from a country-club soiree. They’re certainly game, but they’re not particularly well-served by a director who appears to believe that the songs need goosing at every conceivable opportunity. At one point, to illustrate a ditty about sitting lovesick on a roof, he has a performer climb atop an onstage table. In a gender-bending roundelay, he has a man turn toward another man several beats too soon, as if the audience wouldn’t get the joke if he didn’t telegraph it. And when this sort of inspiration fails him, he arranges and rearranges the cast in neat little patterns. The actors, for what it’s worth, are all in excellent voice, so if you close your eyes, the songs sound fine (though why they require amplification in so small a house, with only a piano and bass for backup, is a mystery). And occasionally, there’ll be an unfussy solo that registers, either comically (a number called “Miss Byrd” about a prim secretary who’s skipping out for sex on her lunch hour) or poignantly (a lament about roads not taken in which each verse ends in the words “I’m not complaining”). Still, attired in costumes that look suitable for a trip to the golf course, and prancing in front of draped white curtains that might easily see duty at a Holiday Inn lounge, the people onstage lack the world-weary urbanity required to put across this material. Invested only with sincerity, it all comes across as sentimental and square. —Bob Mondello