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What’s it all about? Bacharach Reimagined

Published 16 July 2015

What’s it all about?

Bacharach Reimagined.

Who’s in it?

I know, I skipped the answer to question one, didn’t I? But it was too enticing an opportunity to miss.

Kyle Riabko, all-American recording artist and star of Broadway’s Spring Awakening and Hair, leads the cast in his own re-workings, mash-ups and perspective-altering arrangements of iconic songwriter Burt Bacharach’s canon, from I Say A Little Prayer to What’s New Pussycat?

He’s joined by a host of multi-instrumentalist performers so talented you’ll want to shake their parents by the hand and congratulate them on their potently musical genes, including pocket powerhouse Stephanie McKeon, formerly of The Commitments.

What should I look out for?

Christine Jones and Brett J Banakis’ guitar-strewn set that ripples out into the Menier’s auditorium, creating the most effortlessly cool, ragtag, ramshackle student apartment/garage you’ll ever see. I want to move in.

Steven Hoggett’s perfect choreography/direction that combines near-boyband levels of mass synchronisation with the subtlest of triggers to alter a mood; a found cassette tape or an empty chair.

The most heart-crushing rendition of Magic Moments you’re ever likely to hear.

What will I be humming?

This is Bacharach. You already know the songs. You’ll probably be humming them going in. But if you’re pushing me, I’d go with the title refrain from Alfie, which is laced and layered through the entire show, Cilla classic Anyone Who Had A Heart and, this being London, Raindrops Keep Fallin’ On My Head.

Who was in the press night crowd?

Sanjeev Bhaskar and Nathan Amzi, who’ll both be back at the Menier to star in Dinner With Saddam this autumn. Sheridan Smith, who’s rumoured to be heading back to the Menier, where she previously starred in Little Shop Of Horrors, to lead the cast of Funny Girl. And Mr Bacharach, who joined the cast on stage for an unforgettable press night finale.

In a nutshell?

Why do smiles suddenly appear? Because What’s It All About? Bacharach Reimagined brings innovative new arrangements, fabulous theatricality and an irresistible, stupendously talented cast to an enviable catalogue of classic songs.

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Will I like it?

If you’re expecting musical theatre, possibly not. There’s no story. There are no characters. There’s only one line spoken to the audience.

BUT, and it’s a big one, it is theatrical music. It’s a gig like none you’ve ever seen before. It’s mystifying and enchanting, charming and wistful, nostalgic and progressive. Without words, the performers become your friends, the auditorium your home. And you cannot help but smile.

Hoggett’s movement direction – more Once than The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-Time – is joyful and fun-filled, never overpowering, while Riabko’s arrangements genuinely bring new life to Bacharach and lyricist Hal David’s timeless classic.

I suspect you’ll enjoy it so much birds might appear.

What’s It All About? Bacharach Reimagined runs at the Menier Chocolate Factory until 5 September. You can book tickets through the theatre’s website.

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