The first time around at the Menier Chocolate Factory it went under the name What’s It All About, now this “musical” has been renamed Close To You and they should really have stuck with the original title.
Because you have to ask yourself: What’s It All About? There is no denying the talent of its cast of seven singer-musicians but there’s nothing to differentiate this show from a regular gig at your local concert venue.
There is no narrative to make this production, which has just opened at London’s Criterion Theatre, a musical in the traditional sense other than performers occasionally ripping up bits of paper.
What we have is a reinterpretation of Burt Bacharach’s extensive body of work by a group of performers who weren’t even born during the American’s heyday.
Growing up I remember my parents liking the easy-going charm of a Bacharach standard. He was lumped in the same bracket as Andy Williams, Perry Como and our own Val Doonican and, as such, was decidedly uncool.
Now his work has been rediscovered and reinvented, with the composer’s permission, by Canadian musician and actor Kyle Riabko, for today’s audiences.
They’re mostly still ballads but supported by reggae, rock, a mad jamming moment or blues.
Opening night saw the 87-year-old Bacharach treated like royalty. Accompanied by Sir Tom Jones, he got a ring-side seat for the show and was applauded before and after.
And, to get value for money, the diminutive pensioner was wrapped up and sent out on the streets after the performance, complete with grand piano, to lead the late night Piccadilly Circus passers-by in a rousing rendition of Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head.
Standout moment of the production is Anastacia McCleskey’s powerfully moving version of Don’t Make Me Over.
But the remainder of the performance is dominated by Riabko’s ego-fuelled impression of a rock star, complete with crazy, head-banging, guitar solos.
Brett Banakis and Christine Jones’ bizarre set sees the walls covered in more rugs than you’d find in John Lewis and sofas suspended in midair. I’m not sure why.
Close To You: Bacharach Reimagined is what it says and, as such, really only for fans of his music.
Playing at The Criterion until January 10.
Close To You
Burt Bacharach’s back catalogue is reinvented for a directed concert featuring a talented seven-strong cast, but a musical it ain’t.