Close to You Bacharach Reimagined

Theatre, Musicals
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Kyle Riabko in 'What's It All About? Bacharach Reimagined'

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Kyle Riabko, Anastacia McCleskey and Stephanie McKeon in 'What's It All About? Bacharach Reimagined'

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Kyle Riabko Stephanie McKeon and Anastacia McCleskey in 'What's It All About? Bacharach Reimagined'

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Anastacia McCleskey Daniel Bailen and Kyle Riabko in 'What's It All About? Bacharach Reimagined'

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The cast of 'What's It All About? Bacharach Reimagined'

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The cast of 'What's It All About? Bacharach Reimagined'

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Cast of 'What's It All About? Bacharach Reimagined'

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© Nobby Clark

Kyle Riabko in 'What's It All About? Bacharach Reimagined'

Grindingly dull night of anodyne Burt Bacharach covers

Close To You’ – formerly ‘What’s It All About?’ – is a celebration of the vast back catalogue of octogenarian MOR-dispenser Burt Bacharach, in which a bunch of fresh-faced, perma-grinning performers give BB’s copious greatest hits a sort of terrifyingly earnest acoustic rock makeover.

They’re led by Kyle Riabko, a technically proficient Canadian who decided he wanted to recruit a young, enthusiastic band for what is, in essence, a tribute concert with bells on.

Probably I am either too young, too old or too grumpy to be this show’s target audience. It’s worth noting that ‘What’s It All About?’ enjoyed cult success in New York and at our very own Menier Chocolate Factory before changing its name to that of a more famous Bacharach song for this West End transfer.

But still, I see lots of shows not aimed at me and I rarely find them as weirdly alienating as this. Director Steven Hoggett’s admittedly nifty staging sets his cast in a sort of exploded living room set, with the suggestion that the performers are just a bunch of young pals, hangin’ out and soberly jammin’ out a bit of Burt. But why would they do this? Why are they relentlessly smiling? Why do all the songs sound so similar, even when there are clunky attempts to dabble with reggae, soul, blues, even rock? Seriously, why are they smiling all the time? Are they supposed to be in a cult? It that it?

Riabko is clearly a gifted young man, but his skilled arrangements are excruciatingly bland, completely adrift from any modern musical trends, about as iconoclastic as a Buckingham Palace garden party. And trying to pointedly sculpt Bacharach’s songs into a celebration of youth is weird when the best songs have already been popularised by well-known names who were young when they first sang them: Cilla; Dusty; The Carpenters; The White Stripes – whose incendiary rendition of ‘I Just Don’t Know What to Do with Myself’ seems to be referenced by the piss-weak blues version here. It’s only a raucous ‘What the World Needs Now is Love’ that comes across like it’s being played by an actual band at a gig.

The show is subtitled ‘Bacharach reimagined’, but this is just dull, worshipful homage, no imagination to it.

By: Andrzej Lukowski

Posted:

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Average User Rating

3.2 / 5

Rating Breakdown

  • 5 star:3
  • 4 star:4
  • 3 star:6
  • 2 star:4
  • 1 star:1
LiveReviews|18
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A lot of people seem to be giving the show a much lower rating because they didn't know what they were going to watch. This isn't a play or a musical with any kind of story. What it is, is a modernisation of classic Burt Bacharach songs by an extremely talented and enthusiastic group of performers. I love the modern acoustic take, vocally everyone on the night was amazing and you couldn't help but enjoy yourself because of how energetic the performers are and made a great use of the stage and even had space for a few lucky audience members to watch from the sides.


I agree with most of the reviews here that this show doesn't have a story-line to it as such but that certainly didn't make it any less enjoyable for me.  Or maybe that's because I took my Mom with me?!  Needless to say, we both tapped and hummed our way through most of the songs and it was a very pleasant trip down memory lane.  Worth it for a bit of light entertainment but it doesn't have the wow factor!


a great opportunity wasted in my opinion. I would have loved to see this work as I love Burts music but to be honest I found the whole show a bit difficult to watch. The arrangements of his songs just dont work in this production which struggles to really resonate with an audience. 


"Close to You" is a great tribute to the songs of Bacharach by an exceptionally talented cast. Most of the songs have been successfully updated and are brilliantly delivered. Time Out's review which describes it as "grindingly dull" couldn't be further from the truth.  


I'm a guy whose favourite radio station is Planet Rock, and I have to be dragged to a theatre production of any kind - particularly schmaltzy musicals (sitting through Billy Elliot would be my worst nightmare). However, I'd sit in a field in the pouring rain to watch a good tribute band and Riabko troupe could easily top the bill at any summer festival. Seriously, they could comfortably hold the main stage at Glastonbury, and get a 100,000 people on their feet.  


I very much hope Riabko releases a Close to You soundtrack album as it would contain some of the best covers of Bacharach's work you are ever likely to hear. 

Staff Writer

If you don't read about this show before attending you will be pleasantly surprised! This is  not a typical west end musical show with a storyline. This is more like attending a private concert set in an original and cosy atmosphere (very beautiful staging).You really attend this show for the signing performance which is outstanding (each singer is amazing in its own style - five start to "Cry me a river" performance). If you love cheesy-romantic-feel good music this is the show you must attend in London!


I loved it, the singers were amazing, it was quirky and fun! So talented, and all so good looking, loved the guy on the piano, puts X-Factor to shame! I saw them on the One Show and had to see it, wonderful Sunday afternoon! Well done x


First it's not exactly a musical but more a concert. Don't expect any special story but just talented singer turning in the middle of the stage...


 I normally love musicals but in my opinion this is not a musical. It's this genre of "jukebox musicals" that does nothing but song covers. I'd prefer to sit at home and listen to music on youtube to this. For me musicals have a storyline, acting, dance and music. This simply does not qualify. I feel their advertising is also misleading as I'd have imagined a musical with a love story from their posters. Instead it's just playing random songs. We left during the interval.  

Tastemaker

A few weeks ago I spotted an advert for this on the underground and without thinking, my inner 60 year began tapping her foot while 'Say a Little Prayer' skipped round my head and you know what? Last week, my actual 35 year old feet were tapping too as a cast of fresh faced young thangs showed a very enthusiastic audience just why the music of in-attendance legend Burt Bacharach is still as frankly awesome today as it ever was.


I knew quite a few of his songs but had no idea what to expect - it's not a musical in the typical sense in that there is no storyline but neither does it seem a straight up jukebox musical, instead it's somewhere in between. The cast can more than hold their own vocally with Anastacia McCleskey in particular delivering an absolute powerhouse of a performance and Renato Paris being quite literally the happiest man I think I've ever seen on stage and why not? In front of friends, family, tourists, press and oh yeah, Mr. Bacharach and Sir Tom Jones themselves, they transformed the words of the one pop's greatest lyricists into reggae, rock & country with ease, confidence and a joyful energy. Climbing down from sofas on walls and sharing space on stage with audience members - a great way of interacting and making it seem less like a theatre and more like a Friday night gig - the talented singers also demonstrated the kind of flawless harmonies and comfortable instrument playing that X Factor wannabes would do well to try and emulate.


Is it a perfect show? Not quite - there were a few songs trimmed to within an inch of their lives that I wish I'd heard more of and it seemed a mean trick to cast the only other female directly after McCleskey's tour du force because nothing was going to follow that with any major degree of success however I'm a massive fan of any show where the talent is real, the songs have stood the test of time and there's nary a Z list celebrity insight - grab a friend, have a drink & enjoy some class A feel good entertainment.



Tastemaker

First things first, THIS IS NOT A MUSICAL. In fact there is no story line linking the songs together at all. It is simply a series of Burt's best hits sung through. The cast while very talented, did not seem to be enjoying themselves; every smile seemed forced and every flick of the head was choreographed. The level of cheese was much too high for comfort and sadly Burt's wonderful songs were lost in the mash-ups and remixes. The so called 'modern renditions' felt dated and lacked imagination. Being a huge Burt Bacharach fan I felt his music was not done justice. If you are a lover of musicals this is not one for you and if you're a Burt Bacharach fan I think you would get far more  from his greatest hits albums. 

Tastemaker

The prospect of seeing Close to You: Bacharach Reimagined- billed as a celebration of ‎Burt Bacharach’s contributions to music- daunted me. I presumed that my unfamiliarity with Bacharach’s repertoire, paired with my scepticism of musicals in general, would make it impossible for me to appreciate. But something still compelled me (perhaps it was the rumour that Bacharach himself would be in attendance that night- I just couldn’t resist).


Initial cynicism aside, I went. And you know what? I had a pretty good time. This is an accessible show for all ages and unfolds as a stream of live performances only- there is no narrative to follow or flashy stage production, just a cast of seven talented musicians who revisit Bacharach’s catalogue with a modern sound. The cast are energetic and their performances are strong. Each song is treated in a different style, ranging from arena rock to stripped back acoustic, and there are moments of both crowd engagement and intimate acapella.


This is a genuine treatment of Bacharach’s anthology and there’s no X-Factor veneer or failed attempt to contemporise the music through the inclusion of social media, modern technology or pop culture. This only highlights how the lyrics and composition of these songs have withstood the test of time- they need no more than minimal instrumental accompaniment and some strong voices to impress.


Don’t worry if, like me, you don’t think you’re a fan of Burt Bacharach’s music. The truth is that you’re probably a bigger fan than you realise. As the playlist progressed, I was surprised at the amount of music that I recognised. The modern take on these classics fuelled my appreciation for this genre of music, which I formally dismissed as belonging to my parents’ generation (oh, and weddings. So many first dances.).  


While Bacharach’s fanbase will need no persuasion to enjoy this tribute, the rest of the audience will likely be won over by the interval. The second act is pithier than the first, relying primarily on a series of melodies and the whole show comes to a close with an impressive encore (did Bacharach really pen that one? I had no idea!).


So I recommend that you go see Close to You bearing in mind that you’re getting a concert performance and not a full-on Broadway show. Cast aside your reservations and enjoy- it’s lively, it’s about the music and the strength of the talent. More importantly, there are no celebrity judges, wardrobe malfunctions or hyperactive hosts to contend with: it’s back to the Bacharach basics.

Tastemaker

If you love Burt Bacharach, then you'll thoroughly enjoy 'Close to You'. The cast are undoubtedly talented. The set is unique, adorned wall-to-wall with iconic items from different era's of Burt's career. The music is great and Burt's biggest hits is covered with an eclectic twist. But like many that has seen this, I, too, was hoping for more of a storyline and much of the performance felt like a non-stop concert. Kyle was a little cheesy but engaging. Despite not quite being what I'd hoped it would be, I still enjoyed myself and and if you love Burt, then you'll love this.

Tastemaker

If you’re a fan of Burt Bacharach’s music you will enjoy this reimagining of his greatest tunes. I was expecting more of a storyline, but Close To You plays more like a non-stop concert of restyled classics. The cast were exceptionally talented and were clearly enjoying themselves, and size of the Criterion Theatre made it feel really inclusive of the audience.


Although it’s kind of cheesy in it’s delivery (I’m looking at you Kyle) there is no denying that the music is great and you won’t be able to stop yourself from tapping along.

Tastemaker

I have to say that I was expecting some kind of story line but it is basically a concert.

Nevertheless you will enjoy it, even if you don't know who Bacharach is, I'm sure you will recognize a few of his songs.

Good voices, cool stage!


tastemaker

Being old I really like Berts music, and I was interested to catch an "updated" slant.. It was O.K. - but it was never Rock and  any "updating" doesn't really work. The music which hasn't been tampered with is fine - but after a dozen songs sadly they all began to sound the same.


i don't normally do fringe, despite loving the Southwark Playhouse and their productions, and tonight was my first time at the Menier Chocolate Factory. Tonight's show was extremely entertaining, and thats what I think it is, an entertainment. The staging and the auditorium are all part of one, large sofas in place of regular seats on either side, hanging rugs and bits of old carpets, the many and varied table lamps around the place, give it a feel of an East Village bar or club and it works really well. The basic staging reminded me of RENT the musical. The songs are played and sung in a way that on occasions I wondered what they were, and some were mashed up, but it all worked for me. The entire cast are amazing, so talented, especially the male lead - Kyle Riabko, who started this whole project off in 2010. Kyle has a unique voice so well suited to the songs. At 90 minutes without an interval its perfect.  Would i see it again - definitely yes, would I buy the CD - you bet!

Tastemaker

I love a cheesy, classic, easy listening song list. Manilow Magic was played on repeat in my youth- therefore I went expecting to enjoy this show. I wasn't disappointed, I knew 99% of the tunes which have been reimagined by a very cool, young & energetic group of musicians led by Kyle. The first impression was good- the Menier Chocolate Factory is an intimate space & was configured like someone's basement den with sofa's, lounge chairs & lamps strewn around. I was absolutely delighted to be shown to a sofa on the wings. This was by far the comfiest seat in theatre land! The group of 7 take turns playing the various instruments and lead vocals. They were all really talented & their enthusiasm & obvious love for the music was infectious. The whole audience was tapping their toes along & my friend who was not familiar with Mr Bacharach's work still loved the show. The time flew with clever use of props & the rotating stage meant it was visually entertaining too. The unexpected highlight was being serenaded by the cast on leaving the theatre- lovely touch & as we walked out into the drizzly night nothing was worrying me..

Staff Writer

I really liked this! The music 'reimagined' was great, the performers were all really good and the staging so relaxed. At times I had the feeling that I was jammin' with friends and having a fun music session. The song choices from the ever so popular selection were spot on, but I do think it could have been about 2-3 songs shorter. The use of the staging and the design was brilliant! A show that I would recommend.  Do keep in mind that it is about 90 minutes long with no interval.