What’s It All About? Bacharach ReimaginedPosted: February 11, 2014
I’m so mad at myself for waiting so long to see this show. Mostly because it means I wasn’t able to tell you about it until now. And time is short, folks. This piece, after receiving multiple extensions, is closing this coming Sunday at New York Theatre Workshop. Get to it. There are still a few days left to check out this stellar Bacharach concert.
Yup, it’s a concert. Do not expect a story or book! This is simply wonderful song after wonderful song presented in a unique, engrossing way. I imagine people could be disappointed if they expected plot, but in my mind, it’s all about feeling the music.
Kyle Riabko, who is 26 and so talented, has taken the work of Burt Bacharach and arranged it for modern audiences. He has extracted these songs from the 50s and 60s, added his own style, and managed to do so without harming the essence of the music. Listen to him sing a few tunes here. Burt Bacharach is one of those artists where you don’t actually realize how many songs of his you know. When you listen to the canon, like in this show, you’re constantly thinking, “Oh yeah, I know this. This is Burt Bacharach, too?” All of his major hits are covered in this production plus songs I’d never heard before and loved just as much.
The music is performed by an incredibly gifted group of musicians and vocalists. These seven jump around playing multiple instruments and singing their hearts out. There is a sense of comfort and clarity in the room as they jam together, and their relationships with one another emanate out into the house. Plus they sound amazing. New York Theatre Workshop, you’re going to do a cast recording, right? I mean, I’m not really giving you a choice. You must release an album. I will help you promote it. Call me.
I’m also in love with not just the sound of the show but the design. The stage picture is beautiful. The entire theatre has been transformed, covered wall to wall in carpets, and lamps scattered across the stage. I know, carpets don’t sound super fancy, but I walked in and caught my breath at the beauty of the space. There’s also a mini-tower of instruments upstage center, à la this guy at the Seattle Rock ‘n’ Roll Museum, that the performers climb on, occasionally grabbing a new guitar to play. The lighting design is stunning. The choreography is simple and not overdone. Oh, and there is also some awesome limited onstage seating on super comfy couches. It was like chilling in someone’s living room. But that someone is super, super cool. And they have a band.
What’s great about this show is it knows exactly what it is and what it wants to accomplish. It’s not pretending to be anything else. No one is pushing or showing off. It’s simply a chance for you to experience 90 minutes packed with familiar songs shared in a new way and look around to see everyone else bobbing their heads and tapping their feet right alongside you. That may just be what it’s all about, Alfie.
What’s It All About? Bacharach Reimagined
Music by Burt Bacharach, Lyrics by Hal David, Arranged by Kyle Riabko, Directed by Steven Hoggett
New York Theatre Workshop through February 16th
Photo Credit: Joan Marcus
Pictured: Kyle Riabko