Close to You: Bacharach Reimagined at Criterion Theatre
There can be few better arguments for the unifying power of music than Burt Bacharach’s enormous songbook. Whether you were around to be on board with Burt since his compositions first entered the charts in the late 50s, or caught him performing to a crowded field from Glastonbury’s Pyramid Stage this summer, there are sure to be some Bacharach songs that you know and hold dear. Following acclaimed New York and Off-West End runs, Close to You: Bacharach Reimagined brings a celebration of these almost innumerable beloved works to the West End for the first time.
Christine Jones’ cosy and warmly lit stage, constructed from retro soft furnishings and bejewelled with vintage instruments and musical equipment, provides the perfect backdrop to a comfortable exploration of this most easy of easy-listening catalogues. Artfully technical touches such as a rotating floor and the presence of a select few audience members on sofas at the peripheries of the stage add theatricality, helping to elevate the frenetically choreographed performance beyond that of a simple tribute concert.
The energetic young cast of seven are fronted by Kyle Riabko (co-conceiver of the show and provider of the lead vocal and considerable guitar skills upon which its sound is built) in dancing the audience through his unique and fresh arrangements of over 30 Bacharach hits. The sheer range of talent on display facilitates masterful delivery in a variety of stylistic forms – from high-tempo, rocky interpretations of Message to Michael and Do You Know the Way to San Jose?, through to a finale including a reggae-tinge to What the World Needs Now Is Love. A middle section of Bacharach’s ballads showcases the contrasting sweet/soulful voices of Stephanie McKeon and Anastacia McCleskey to heart-wrenching effect, with the latter’s paired-back, powerhouse performance of Don’t Make Me Over a real highlight.
By refreshingly sidestepping the recent trend toward “songbook musicals” with (often contrived and hackneyed) plots, Close to You ensures that the music itself – with a nod due to Hal David for the majority of the lyrics – is given pride of place. It’s testament to the company, as well as to the great man himself, that such a joyous and heart-warming piece of theatre as this is the result.
Close to You: Bacharach Reimagined is on at Criterion Theatre from 3rd October 2015 to 10th January 2015. For further information or to book, visit here.
Watch the a teaser for Close to You: Bacharach Reimagined here: