“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)
“With a dream in your heart you’re never alone”
From the moment you enter the Criterion Theatre to see the amazing patchworked carpet effect of Christine Jones and Brett Banakis’ set design with its onstage sofas – some even suspended in mid-air – it’s clear to see that there’s something special about Close To You Bacharach Reimagined. Transferred from a successful summer run at the Menier Chocolate Factory (where it had the slightly different title of What’s It All About?), the show now offers its shimmering warmth and endless charm to get us through the darkening autumn nights.
And that patchwork effect is one that mirrors the nature of the show itself. Conceived by Kyle Riabko and David Lane Seltzer, Close To You offers up fresh reinterpretations of Burt Bacharach’s considerable songbook but rather than a straight set of song after song, the material is woven into a rich tapestry of medleys, repeated refrains, lyrical connections and snatches of melodies – an audacious reimagining but one that is hugely effective as it acts as a reminder of the extraordinary body of work Bacharach has composed with lyricist Hal David among others. Continue reading “Re-review: Close To You: Bacharach Reimagined, Criterion”
“Just take me inside your arms and hold me tight”
Now that The 39 Steps has finally come to an end after nearly a decade of successful performances, the Criterion Theatre is up for grabs again and the first show to go in there is the Menier Chocolate Factory’s summer hit, the newly retitled Close To You: Bacharach Reimagined. To say I was blown away is no understatement and I couldn’t recommend the show more (even with its peskily introduced interval) – my 4.5* review for Offical Theatre can be read here.
Running time: 1 hour 50 minutes (with interval)
Booking until 10th January
“The Irish are the blacks of Europe”
In the ongoing search for the perfect recipe for a West End musical, The Commitments has done better than most since opening last October. Here, a hot-shot director (Jamie Lloyd) has been mixed with material that has already been a book and a film (written by Roddy Doyle, directed by Alan Parker) and tinkers with the jukebox format (using iconic US soul classics) to create an engaging piece of entertainment. The main surprise comes with how little story there actually is – the premise is simply that young gun Jimmy Rabbitte decides to put a band together and that is pretty much it.
So in place of narrative twists and turns, we get the slick movement of Soutra Gilmour’s ingeniously inventive set design; instead of depth of character, there’s a wide-ranging songbook which gives everyone a turn on the mike or a chance to rock out a solo and thus express themselves through music. It’s a curious interpretation which takes a little time to really gel, the opening 20 minutes or so struggles to make its mark as there’s little music and the surprising thinness of Doyle’s writing is at its most exposed – for all the time Jimmy spends in his house, his ma gets an appallingly small amount to say. Continue reading “Review: The Commitments, Palace”