There is a tongue planted firmly in cheek with this affectionate tribute to the music of the Carpenters and in particular the legacy of Richard, forever doomed to be the “other” member.
It is clear that there is a deep affection at the heart of this, why else would you devote so much time to putting together a show like this if there wasn’t?
Richard Carpenter is Close to You is written and performed by Matthew Floyd Jones, one-half of the excellent Frisky and Mannish. This show continues as a spiritual successor to the duo, carrying on their tradition of perfectly rendered parody songs.
It’s a 55-minute romp, plus five minutes for laughs – of which there are plenty- that envisages the career of Richard Carpenter in the years after the tragic death of his sister Karen. It’s an existence that takes in cutting the ribbon at shopping malls, opening memorial gardens, working on tacky cable channels selling compilations of his band’s songs. All the while he’s toiling to get a debut solo album finished and listened to by a world that is more interested in talking about his sister.
The show imagines a showbiz hell known as Purgatoria a place where the careers of the overshadowed other elements in famous families or groups are condemned to remain forever embittered about their legacy.
This is a quest of sorts for a way out and for Richard to shape a life of his own, out of the shadows. It is also a chance for him to show that he was more than the piano-playing sibling of Karen.
It is clear that the real life Carpenters’ lawyers could well have been taking a close eye on this show. Apparently Floyd Jones can only sing six words from the songs. That’s why we don’t get the exact songs; we get note perfect copies of classic Carpenters hits.
It’s the opening of the show that highlights Floyd Jones’ talent for parody as spends time running through a medley of songs. For ‘Only Just Begun’, we get ‘It’s the Start’. ‘Rainy Days and Monday’ becomes ‘Stormy Nights and Thursday’. The words and titles may have changed but the tunes are all too familiar.
There are unexpected character cameos that crop up along the way, which adds to the occasionally surreal nature of the show.
It is clear that there is a deep affection at the heart of this, why else would you devote so much time to putting together a show like this if there wasn’t? Although Richard Carpenter is parodied to perfection the climax of the show does have warmth that certainly makes it a worthwhile journey for the character (and the audience too). It also contains a full version of a Carpenters classic; I won’t spoil the surprise what that is.
It’s a show that helps to re-evaluate the significance of the Carpenters’ songs and that is not a bad thing.