“Don’t make me over…”
One of my happiest theatrical memories of 2015 was the sheer joy that Close To You: Bacharach Reimagined brought to my heart. Having opted not to bother with the production at the pricey Menier, the subsequent West End transfer to the Criterion brought more opportunities to see it and as I sat my sceptical posterior down on the seat, I was little prepared for the musical revelation that was to follow and now very happy that it has been preserved in this Original London Cast Recording.
My low expectations have initially had something to do with it but there’s something undeniable about the way in which Kyle Riabko and David Lane Seltzer have devised the show, reinterpreting a vast array of Burt Bacharach’s catalogue into a near-continuous mix which interpolates key themes and melodies throughout its tracklisting, melding its own structure out of its defiantly non-traditional approach. And its one that survives well without the visual poetry that director Steven Hoggett brought to the show.
For example, a tender vocalese through the theme to The Sundance Kid bleeds into an ethereal take on ‘Magic Moments’ which repeats ‘Alfie’s’ ‘what’s it all about’ line within it and then finishes off with a snatch of ‘Trains And Boats and Planes’, all within the space of three minutes. It’s an utterly beguiling way of looking at the familiar and refreshing it in an unmistakeable way, across some of the best pop songs ever written.
It also means that some Bacharach purists will undoubtedly be disappointed. Few songs get the straight treatment (Anasacia McCleskey’s glorious ‘Don’t Make Me Over’ is a rare exception) and fewer still sound like the most famous version that you’ve probably got rattling around your head (I’ll Never Fall In Love Again as a bromantic lament is brilliant). And as ever, that’s to miss the point, Close To You is about taking the risk and making something new – it may not appeal to everyone but to me, it is close to musical theatre heaven.
(The wealth of demo tracks that fill the majority of the second disc is a bit of an indulgence though, only for hardcore Riabko fans tbh)