If you grew up in the 1970s it was almost compulsory to know the
music of Burt Bacharach and lyrics of Hal David -
this immersive, highly-charged performance of Bacharach’s music delighted most; the performers had fun, the audience had fun, and sometimes that’s all that’s required for a great night out.
The Bacharach songbook is far bigger than one show can handle; this is perhaps why so many songs were merged, which proved frustrating when a particular favourite suddenly became something else. A mere Burt-on-45 sideshow in the style of the Fun Song Factory. But among the songs performed in their entirety, McCleskey’s goose-bumpingly pleading Don’t Make Me Over was the true highlight of the show. Bacharach wrote for women with exceptional vocal ranges; McCleskey’s soaring vocals grabbed the soul and squeezed hard. The cheery skiffle version of Windows of the World was delivered with a misjudged lack of pathos needed to sing such lines as “...men cannot be friends, their quarrel often ends where some have to die...” It may be that the depth of emotion written into that, and many other apparently light-as-soufflé Bacharach & David songs is simply lost within this era of people weened on a diet of sugar, Glee and reality television. Walk On By worked well with a country lilt, and though the rocky What’s New Pussycat gained a standing ovation, no knickers were thrown. Riabko’s spotlight solo, a pared-back acoustic Alfie, whilst played and sung with technical aplomb, lacked the necessary heart-squeezing poignancy and he appeared smug. Is it that this uber-talented, handsome young man might just be on the wrong end of the song?
Is it a gig? Or a piece of musical theatre? Unlike many jukebox musicals, there was no cheesy storyline to stitch the songs together, though the thread line “What’s it all about...” became an oft-repeated irritation. Yet this immersive, highly-charged performance of Bacharach’s music delighted most; the performers had fun, the audience had fun, and sometimes that’s all that’s required for a great night out. If anything, Close to You will reawaken a desire to visit different arrangements with a possible diversion to the Shangri La of Lost Horizon. And that’s no bad thing.