There are quite a few jukebox shows playing around town that repackage old pop repertoires as musicals, from what has become the grandmother of the genre (Mamma Mia!) and a show about Franki Valli and the Four Seasons (Jersey Boys, who are now more like Jersey Granddads), to shameless pop concerts like the Michael Jackson tribute (Thriller Live). But none do anything quite so loving, or lovely, as simply investing in the repertoire it is celebrating with such huge respect, yet giving it a vibrant new contemporary spin and sound, as Close to You: Bacharach Reimagined does.
"We are here for one thing and one thing only," says Kyle Riabko, the show's co-creator and lead guitarist and singer after the show's opening medley, "and that's to celebrate the music of the great Burt Bacharach." On the first night, the great Bacharach himself was there to hear those words, beaming from the front row of the dress circle, and he even tinkled the ivories, too, in an encore outside the theatre beside Eros at Piccadilly Circus afterwards.
He won't be there in person every night, but his spirit will be. The show is a jukebox parade and mash-up of some three dozen of his greatest hits including 'Alfie', 'A House is not a Home', 'I Say A little Prayer', 'I'll Never Fall in Love Again', 'Raindrops Keep Falling on my Head', 'Anyone who Had a Heart', 'Walk on By', 'This Guy's in Love with You'. 'What the World Needs Now is Love', 'Wishin' and Hopin'', and ''What's New Pussycat.' The hits just keep coming.
But the joy of the show is to make them sound instantly familiar, as they are, but also totally fresh, too, as Kyle Riabko's astonishing new arrangements are blissfully played live by the gifted seven person ensemble, led by himself, of singer-musicians (five men, two women).
It is partly just a gig — but it's also so much more: a celebration of one of pop's giants that pierces the heart in the bittersweet melancholia of many of the songs, and then simply lifts the spirits with utter joy.
The show transferred from New York Theatre Workshop, where it was first seen in 2013, to the Menier Chocolate Factory last summer — a powerhouse south London venue who next month send the Broadway show The Color Purple back to Broadway, and here bring a bit of Off-Broadway to London.
Though a little of the intimacy of the Menier — which felt like it had been turned into a club lounge — has inevitably been lost, and an unnecessary interval inserted that breaks the flow of the show, the show still rocks, with director/choreography Steven Hoggett lending his own discreet contribution so that the show alternately pulses and aches with movement.
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"Not everything on stage works...Riabko’s covers rarely aim for anything too radical."
Claire Allfree for The Telegraph
"Bacharach’s back catalogue is a joyous thing — I’ll Never Fall in Love Again, Magic Moments, Walk on By, to name but three — but Riabko adds almost nothing to it with these new settings that are allegedly creating a fresh generation of fans."
Fiona Mountford for The Evening Standard
External links to full reviews from popular press