Close To You: Bacharach Reimagined
Reviewed on Thursday 15th October 2015
Back in July Close To You: Bacharach Reimagined (formerly known as What's It All About?) made its London debut at the Menier Chocolate Factory. Kyle Riabko and David Lane Seltzer's show, which originally premiered off-Broadway, 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.
I think different audience members will gain different things from the experience; some will discover that one man wrote an amazingly wide variety of iconic songs whilst others will be able to reminisce and enjoy seeing songs they know and love presented in an entirely different way. Riabko, who also stars in the production, has inventively re-arranged Bacharach's material whilst staying respectful to the originals.
Accompanying themselves on all sorts of instruments throughout the show, the cast are ridiculously talented. Riabko leads the company terrifically; his stage presence is strong and he his cleverly placed vocal gymnastics sound so effortless. When Anastacia McCleskey sings for her life time stands still - she is phenomenal. Stephanie McKeon and Renato Paris also showcase incredible vocals. The entire cast shine throughout, we absolutely need a cast recording.
Replicating its Menier layout, a handful of audience members are sat on either side of the stage on couches and armchairs. I was thrilled when it was announced that Close To You was transferring to the West End but was worried it could lose its intimacy; however, I ended up being seated at the front of the onstage seating and had the most intimate theatrical experience imaginable. It was remarkable to see the show so up close and personal, I could fully appreciate the remarkable bond shared between the cast who are constantly communicating and supporting each other whilst having the time of their lives.
As it was press night, Burt Bacharach was in attendance and received a standing ovation before the show had begun as he took his seat at the front centre of the circle. He later received another standing ovation and extended applause during the bows. After the show concluded everyone was invited to gather outside the the theatre for a special finale which saw Bacharach give a truly special performance of 'Raindrops Keep Falling' alongside the cast. He is an incredible talent; it is unbelievable that one man has written so many heavenly songs. Steven Hoggett's production is carefully detailed, taking the audience into a blissful world - it is the best kind of escapism.
Above all, it's brilliant that Close To You can't be put into a simple category. It is a new kind of show, presenting music in a theatrical setting. Unlike theatrical concerts such as Thriller Live, Close To You creates an identity and dares to be different. It is an exhilarating, joyful and absolutely stunning piece of theatre.
Reviewed by Andrew Tomlins (Editor)
Close To You: Bacharach Reimagined is currently booking at the Criterion Theatre until 10th January 2016. Please visit www.closetoyoulondon.com for further information and tickets.
Photo Credit: Johan Persson