Lamps, settees and rugs set a homely ambience for What’s It All About? Bacharach Reimagined. Any inference to a laidback evening is a lure into a false sense of security, however, as this rollicking 85 minute show accelerates from sparse and subtle beginnings, to a frenetic and bombastic close.
Focusing on the oeuvre of esteemed tunesmith Burt Bacharach, this is a fresh wander through his classic catalogue; offering an alternative take on the tried and tested. By sheer coincidence, speaking only a few weeks ago from the Pyramid stage at Glastonbury, Bacharach imparted that he had once tried to stretch out from his trademark style and write a rock n’ roll song. He forlornly declared that it was a flop (the song, ‘My Little Red Book’, was later picked up by 60s cult outfit Love and itself reimagined into a more successful entity).
Where he failed at diversifying, musician/fan Kyle Riabko can stake a claim to success. This production is his brainchild, and what might have first appeared as a fool’s errand has evolved from a labour of love into something offering considerable commercial and critical clout. It has already racked up an impressive list of accolades in New York, where its run was extended twice due to popular demand and has subsequently garnered a number of award nominations.
Matters proceed with the restless flickering of the lamplights, before Riabko emerges alone with acoustic guitar in tow. Strumming gently, his accompanying soulful croon has a deceptively broad range. Gradually flanked by his fellow musicians/singers; Daniel Bailen, Greg Coulson, Anastacia McCleskey, Stephanie McKeon, Renato Paris and James Williams, it quickly becomes apparent that this is a consummate troupe.
Not only do they each contribute to the delectable harmonies, but they also take it in turns to lead vocally. And the voices are magical. The music rises, falls, whispers and hollers. They even find time for some impressive choreography.
There are many highlights. A show-stopping segue from a torch song take on ‘Magic Moments’ into a soulful ‘Don’t Make Me Over’ stuns. The same can be said for an inspired reworking of ‘Wishin’ and Hopin’’. ‘Make It Easy On Yourself’ similarly glistens. All the while, again and again, the refrain of ‘What’s It All About’ returns as a sonorous leitmotif to bind the material together.
Despite the understandable exuberance though, nothing can save the saccharine ‘A House Is Not A Home’ from its own schmaltz. Similarly, ‘What’s New Pussycat’ is a dud no matter how much of a makeover it is given. But, whilst purists might see the reconstitution of classic songs transposed into different keys and styles as sacrilege, the majority of these reimagining’s work a charm.
Riabko stated that he wanted to create ‘a celebration’ of the icon’s work. He has certainly done that. The affection is palpable, the versatility of this cast is a revelation and the effect is one of sheer joy. What’s It All About? Bacharach Reimagined is a finger snappin’, hip shakin’ and delirious evening’s entertainment guaranteed to put a smile on the face and a spring in the step.
Review by Greg Wetherall
What’s It All About? Bacharach Reimagined
Music by Burt Bacharach
Lyrics by Hal David and others
Musical Arrangement by Kyle Riabko
Conceived by Kyle Riabko and David Lane Seltzer
What’s It All About? – Bacharach Reimagined
Menier Chocolate Factory
53 Southwark Street, London, SE1 1RU
Directed by Steven Hoggett
Set Designers: Christine Jones & Brett Banakis; Costume Designer: Matthew Wright
Lighting Designer: Tim Lutkin; Sound Designer: Richard Brooker
WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT? BACHARACH REIMAGINED
3 JULY – 5 SEPT 2015
Tue – Sat, 8pm
Sat & Sun, 3:30pm
90 Mins Approx. (No Interval)
Friday 17th July 2015