I have never been a fan of musicals which simply cover the songs of a celebrated artist or group, otherwise known as a ‘jukebox musical’. The Original London Cast recording of Close To You: Bacharach Reimagined however, is an exception.
Conceived by singer Kyle Riabko, Close to You is a musical concert featuring over 30 of Burt Bacharach’s classic hits. Riabko’s production of this show has, on this recording, demonstrated the emphasis of the show is purely on the music. The highly skilled arrangements and imaginative instrumentation is what keeps this recording an engaging listen from start to finish, with many songs motivically referred to or foreshadowed throughout. There’s a constant intrigue as to how the next song is reinterpreted. Clear examples of this include, ‘What’s New Pussycat?,’ where instead of a bouncy waltz feel and a charming humour in Tom’s vocal, Riabko turns it more funky with a slower tempo, emphasis on electric guitar and keyboard and a raspier vocal tone. One of my personal favourites was a romantic interpretation of ‘Magic Moments’. I’ve always heard it as very old-fashioned, with its skipping tempo and constant whistling. Riabko changes this to a soft boy-girl duet on acoustic guitar, emphasising the romanticism of the song further and is able to fuse with other songs on the recording very easily.
Because of these interpretative choices, it reminds us how timeless Bacharach’s music truly is and how relevant they could be, when reimagined, in today’s popular music scene. The quality of the ensemble is excellent all round, with each singer having their own moment to shine. This includes the stunning vocal performance from Anastacia McCleskey in ‘Don’t Make Me Over,’ as well as Stephanie McKeon in ‘I Say A Little Prayer’.
Even without a strong visual idea of the staging and lighting of this production, anyone who had a heart can truly appreciate the musical imagination and innovation in Close To You. Both this recording and Bacharach’s music as a whole will always remain timeless.
Reviewed by Jack Grey
The Original London Cast Recording of Close To You is out now