Thursday, 16 July 2015

Review: What's It All About? Bacharach Reimagined at the Menier Chocolate Factory

What's It All About? Bacharach Reimagined 
Menier Chocolate Factory
Reviewed on Wednesday 15th July 2015

Very rarely does a piece of theatre as special as What's It All About? Bacharach Reimagined come along. Kyle Riabko and David Lane Seltzer's show presents Burt Bacharach's back catalogue in an entirely new way, highlighting and bringing together recurring themes surrounding love and the true meaning of life.

Different people can gain different things from the piece; for some it will be about discovery, for others it will be about reminiscing whilst I imagine What's It All About? will also speak to certain people in a very powerful way.

I have never seen a show which uses music as an almighty medium to convey such true and deep passion. I found the piece exhilarating, joyful and emotional whilst sitting in awe of the talent of the multi-talented cast, and of Bacharach's incredible talent. 

The Menier Chocolate Factory has been transformed. Audience members along the two sides of the stage are seated on couches and arm chairs and, for those sat end-on, the normal Menier seating is covered in blankets and cushions. You can immediately feel the cool, calm and collected vibe which allows you to let go and truly become lost in Bacharach's music. I did not feel like I was just sat in a theatre watching 'another show'.

If you are big fan of Bacharach ensure you take your seat open minded as Riabko has inventively re-arranged his songs (staying respectful to the originals). I must admit I recognised song after song, but didn't even realise half of them were written by Bacharach. As a press night treat, Bacharach joined the cast on stage for an extra finale rendition of 'Raindrops Keep Falling'. The two full standing ovations and loud applause showed just how much love there was in the room.

The multi talented cast who play various instruments and sing in beautiful harmony throughout impress beyond belief. You would never guess that not all the performers were in the original off-Broadway production (which became the longest-running show to play the New York Theatre Workshop) as they gel together exquisitely. There seems to be a mutual understanding amongst the cast, their chemistry and connection is unbreakable. Everyone stands out and nobody puts a foot wrong.

Riabko is a remarkable talent - not only has he created this show and fine-tuned it to perfection, but he also shines leading the company. You could hear a pin drop during his breathtakingly brilliant rendition of 'Alfie'. Special mentions must also go to Anastacia McCleskey, Stephanie McKeon and Renato Paris whose voices I could listen to for ever more.

Every element of Steven Hoggett's production is carefully detailed and every aspect of the production from the staging to the hugely effective lighting design to the sound levels are absolutely spot on. This is an example of a creative and technical team collaborating spectacularly well with a clear and precise vision. 

I'm not quite sure if What's It All About? can be put into a box, it perhaps reinvents the 'theatrical concert' genre which has been dominated by shows such as Thriller Live which lack creativity and theatrical flair. What's It All About? brings together the power of music with the concentration and intensity of theatre. I have never experienced anything like it and hope the show can find future life in London beyond its run at the Menier. 

Reviewed by Andrew Tomlins (Editor

What's It All About? Bacharach Reimagined runs at the Menier Chocolate Factory until 5th September 2015. Please visit for further information and tickets.

Photo Credit:  Nobby Clark

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