When a show begins fifteen minutes after its supposed start time, audiences starts to get a little fidgety. But when you see Burt Bacharach walk in to the auditorium you can suddenly excuse his tardiness. The eighty seven year old American composer is somewhat of a legend having written pop songs for decades. Alfie, I Just Don’t Know What To Do With Myself, Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head, Walk On By and of course What’s New Pussycat? are just a few of the classic songs that are recognisable by any generation. So it isn’t surprising that in the age of the jukebox musical, something like this has finally shown up. But like any jukebox musical you have to ask yourself if it is worthy to be called a west end show, or is it just an overpriced tribute concert? I went along to find out!
It’s been a while since there was a big show open at the Criterion Theatre in Piccadilly Circus. The 39 Steps has recently closed after nine years but it is back in the limelight with a bang with this new show, after a short run earlier this year at the Menier Chocolate Factory. There is of course no actual storyline to the show but it is a high energy tribute concert. One done very well.
The stage is beautifully set out with an old abandoned warehouse feeling to it, with sofas hanging on the wall which the cast sit on at points in the show. There is a plethora of guitars in an arty formation on the back wall giving this a unique and well thought out design. On either side of the stage were selected audience members who had been chosen at random to sit close to the action. This was a nice idea but did mean the focus was sometimes taken away from the performers to look at the uncomfortable faces sat around them.
Casting is outstanding in this show. Co-conceiver/arranger/musical director and leading man Kyle Riabko is superbly talented at what he does, is a brilliant musician and a great performer. Sometimes a little cheesy but for the most part amazing. Stephanie McKeon (most recently seen in The Commitments) perfectly complements Kyle musically and Anastasia Mccluskey tears to auditorium apart with her powerhouse vocals. In fact, everyone in this show has a unique voice to brings a different level of richness to Bacharach’s work.
Music is all played live on stage by the performers and there are some stomptastic moments where the music is made from various items around the stage. There is beautiful use of movement throughout the show (similar to what was done with ONCE the Musical) and some great choreography as well.
To be honest a Burt Bacharach concert show wasn’t high on my list of must see shows but it was really very good. Well thought out, well written and amazingly performed. If you’re a fan of the music then you won’t be disappointed and tourists that might find it hard to follow an english story line in a musical can sit back and enjoy the well known music and enjoy the west end standards.
Reviewed by West End Wilma
Photo: Johan Persson
Close To You is playing at the Criterion Theatre until 10 January 2016. Click here to book tickets
For more information about the show click here