Close To You Bacharach ReImagined is simply a celebration of the music of Burt Bacharach. The ‘reimagined’ part comes in the form of quirky instruments, tweaking here and there with rhythmic back-beats and clever arrangements. It is beautifully done and manages to give a fresh, modern take on these classic songs whilst still maintaining the beauty of the original music. It is a work of art and I think everyone would smile at the new life which has been given to the fantastic music of Burt Bacharach.
The production started its life as a Broadway five week workshop at the New York Theatre and then came to London for a run from 3rd July to 5th September at the Menier Chocolate Factory, an off-West End theatre, and also did a set at West End Live on 21st June. It has now transferred to the West End’s Criterion Theatre where it is booking until early January 2016. The show was originally called What’s It All About? It has now been renamed Close To You.
The show was co-created by Kyle Riabko (Spring Awakening, Hair (Broadway)) and David Lane Seltzer. The production is directed by Steven Hoggett. Riabko, as well as creating and arranging, leads the cast and is the centre of the production tying the whole piece together. His guitar playing is absolutely amazing and there is a wide collection used throughout the show.
Stephanie McKeon (The Commitments, The Wizard of Oz, A Midsummer Night’s Dream) demonstrates outstanding vocal ability during ‘Walk on By’ and harmonises so well with Anastasia McCleskey (The Book of Mormon, Hairspray, Hair) with ‘I Say a Little Prayer’. McCleskey gives a powerful and emotional performance of ‘Don’t Make Me Over’.
Renato Paris (singer/songwriter) is on keyboard and piano for much of the show but also shows off a wonderful R&B voice, with his background in singing at church really showing. He harmonises nicely with Greg Coulson (Isle of Wight Festival, numerous tours in Europe, North America and Australia) with ‘I’ll Never Fall in Love Again’. Coulson himself a soft, gentle voice with a lovely tone and plays guitar with amazing skill throughout the show. Daniel Bailen (numerous opera credits with Metropolitan Opera) is also on guitar and harmonises with the cast very well. James Williams is the only cast member who doesn’t have a singing role. He plays a beatbox, various jingles and drums with amazing rhythm and skill.
A highlight of the show is ‘Making Love’ where Riabko and McKeon sing and dance together with Kyle playing a guitar on Stephanie’s back. It is a lovely, tender moment which really stands out. ‘Do You Know the Way to San Jose?’, ‘What’s it all about?” and ‘Message to Michael’ are other stand out songs. The encore of ‘What’s New Pussycat?’ is one of the crowd favourites and was a nice way to close the show. There is an added surprise when the cast are singing ‘Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head’ outside the theatre as you leave, a really lovely send off.
It is a feel-good show, with great music, amazingly talented singers and musicians just having so much fun. The integrity and melody of the songs are preserved, but given a fresh, updated sound that people of all ages can enjoy. The modern take on it should attract the younger generations and help ensure this wonderful music lives on. It is a joy of a show and deserves a much longer run!
Close To You is playing at the Criterion Theatre and currently booking until January. The Criterion is a lovely theatre, smaller than most other West End theatres but a perfect venue for this show as it keeps it personal and the whole crowd is involved. To book tickets visit the Close To You website: http://closetoyoulondon.com