The cast of Close to You. ©Johan Persson
I don't often give 5 star reviews to theatre productions yet I have seen two shows in the past week that deserve the highest possible rating I can give them because they're so incredible: In the Heights and Close to You. Long-runner The 39 Steps couldn't have made way at the Criterion Theatre for a more beautiful and mesmerising production than the Bacharach Reimagined transfer from the Menier Chocolate Factory.
Not a musical in the traditional sense, Close to You resembles an intimate gig as we journey through the back catalogue of Burt Bacharach's most iconic songs. It would be impossible to call this a jukebox musical, as there is no obvious story interlinking the performances, but it's not fair to compare it to a tribute act either; Close to You is far more complex and exceptional than a mere imitation. I'm not normally a fan of similar shows but that is clearly because I've never seen this sub-genre of theatre done well – and I can't imagine anyone doing it better than the incredible company of Bacharach Reimagined.
The brainchild of Broadway-actor, musician and songwriter Kyle Riabko, who stars as the front man of the band of musicians on stage, and manager/producer David Lane Seltzer, the show has taken classic Bacharach songs from the likes of Alfie, Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head, What's New Pussycat? and That's What Friends Are For and quite literally reimagined and rearranged them to create a whole new set of beautiful music that is still recognisable yet has its own very special feel to it. Even though I was only familiar with a handful of the pieces, Bacharach philistine that I clearly am, the awe-inspiring rearrangements and the intimate setting created a sense of familiarity that immediately swept me away in the stunning music and performances.
The funky set added to the intimate atmosphere and so did the beautiful, at times almost ethereal, staging. There was an incredible precision in the movements of each of the seven crazy talented musicians, which went beyond the tightest choreography I've seen on stage before. Combined with the mesmerising fluency between the individual pieces – even when the style changed from one song to the next, moving from loud rock 'n' roll moments (Message to Michael) to far more quiet and gentle ones (Close to You) – the entire performance emanated an electrifying vibe.
The complexity of the new arrangements was executed flawlessly by the company, led by the hugely charismatic Kyle, creating an absolutely perfect flow of sounds and movements that left me in awe long after the final notes so beautifully filled the auditorium at the Criterion Theatre. Close to You – Bacharach Reimagined is a show that is truly filled with magic moments.
Close to You – Bacharach Reimagined is running at the Criterion Theatre and currently taking bookings until 10 January 2016. You can book tickets here.