Whether you know it or not, your popular music education has been hugely influenced by the work of prolific songwriter Burt Bacharach. His unmistakably lyrical melodies have been performed by everyone from Cilla Black and Dionne Warwick to Tom Jones and Elvis Costello. Close To You is a new show celebrating and showcasing the works of Burt Bacharach, arranged by Kyle Riabko.
Identifying that the weakest point in most jukebox musicals is the plot, Riabko and the company of Close To You have done away with a plot completely, and we’re treated to song after song from the talented seven performers on stage. However, an absence of plot does not mean an absence of storytelling, and in particular an emotionally charged rendition of Don’t Make Me Over almost had me in tears, and I could absolutely hear some gentle weeping from the row in front. The songs are performed with reverence and admiration, whilst developing a bright new sound for some of these melodies which are over half a century old.
The first third of Close To You feels like you’re peering in on the greatest jam session of these musicians lives. They bring a folk rock element to Bacharach’s songs, stripping them back to their bare bones then building layer upon layer of gentle acoustic harmony and rhythm. The sound created during this portion of the show reminded me hugely of Once, which is no bad thing, however it did begin to feel a little monotonous until the tempo and style changed and we were greeted with full pelt singing and some more rock and roll feel.
The choreography throughout the show was slick and perfectly executed, bringing even the most delicate of performances to life. The energy of the seven performers, (I hope I counted right) was evident right until the very last note of What’s New Pussycat? and their musical ability could not be doubted at all.
Close To You might not be a traditional musical, but the cast’s ability to express a whole range of emotions through the music of Burt Bacharach means you’re hooked until the very end. Vibrant, emotional and a masterclass in the music of one of the greatest songwriters of all time.