What’s it All About? Bacharach Reimagined – review
Menier Chocolate Factory

Published: Monday, July 27, 2015 12:11 PM | Review by: Gillian Fisher | Afridiziak Star Rating:
Anastacia McCleskey Photo Credit Nobby Clark Anastacia McCleskey Photo Credit Nobby Clark

Each moment is seamlessly choreographed, with the cast shoulder popping in unison and constantly reassembling in different groupings.


Kyle Riabko’s unique show is a jubilant jamboree of all things Burt Bacharach. Guitars, tambourines, and ukuleles are wielded by a cast of seven performers as they croon through the composer’s eclectic catalogue. However, this is no simple tribute concert. With incredible skill, the iconic melodies of Bacharach have been retuned, amplified and arranged into a fluid compilation of toe tapping music. Classics such as ‘Wishin’ and Hopin’’ and ‘Close to You’ are given a fresh flavour as the songs meld into each other, making the show both nostalgic and novel.


Co-conceived by Kyle Riabko and the show’s director Steven Hoggett, the concept is reimagining Bacharach for a younger audience. This is brilliantly reflected by the hipster coffee lounge set, designed by Christine Jones and Brett J Banakis. The ramshackle backdrop of bric-a-brac, slouchy sofas and table lamps give a creative, beatnik vibe, perfect for poetry recitations and experimental juggling. But it is the musical arrangement which really packs a modern punch. Songs are tightened and trimmed, with segments of different numbers flowing into one another. The songs are often sped up by the high energy percussion provided by James Williams, his breakneck drumming creating some climactic moments. My personal favourite was ‘Message to Michael’ which had a funky electric base to it. ‘Magic Moments’ was given a skatty, jazz vibe when played by Renato Paris on the piano. This 19-year-old has a great voice and a real comedic flair.


Behind - James Williams, Renato Paris, Greg Coulson, Foreground - Anastacia McCleskey, Stephanie McKeon, Kyle Riabko, Daniel Bailen. by Nobby Clark Behind - James Williams, Renato Paris, Greg Coulson, Foreground - Anastacia McCleskey, Stephanie McKeon, Kyle Riabko, Daniel Bailen. by Nobby Clark

There is a definite ShowTime feel to this production. Each moment is seamlessly choreographed, with the cast shoulder popping in unison and constantly reassembling in different groupings. Whilst most of the music is choral, there are a few solos thrown in. The revolving section of the stage is used to great effect in Stephanie McKeon’s ‘Walk on By’ number, her high pitch filled with sorrow. There is no set narrative, but snippets of scenes with letters being ripped up or cassettes being pored over correspond with certain numbers. Anastacia McCleskey clutches a pair of shoes as she astounds in her ‘Don’t Make Me Over’ solo, her voice vibrating with incredible resonance. The scripted nature of the piece certainly adds dynamacy but also leaves little room for spontaneity. There are however, ingenious touches throughout, such as having floppy haired Daniel Bailen emerge from the clutter to play a lopsided cello.


Such is the power of this production; it taps into our inherent sentimentality and then holds our attention with a lively, modern remix.

This is a uniformly talented cast. The playing is of superb quality throughout, guitarist Greg Coulson, never misses a beat and the singing is excellent. As well as being a pleasure to listen to, the creative remixing of the production makes it compelling. The “What’s it all About” riff, taken from opening lines of 60s hit ‘Alfie’ permeates the production, taking the audience back to that mellow mood before jumping into the next number. This sense of continuity, combined with the unfaltering action gives show that polished, vaudeville feel. In particular, Kyle Riabko’s performance has a very melodramatic edge to it. The gifted singer clearly relishes his role as frontman and gives his all.


Anastacia McCleskey, Daniel Bailen and Kyle Riabko Photo Credit Nobby Clark Anastacia McCleskey, Daniel Bailen and Kyle Riabko Photo Credit Nobby Clark

It being press night, there was a wonderful surprise in store when Riabko introduces “A good friend of ours” and Burt Bacharach appears from the wings. The dapper looking 87-year-old playing his classic ‘Raindrop Keep Falling on My Head’ was a spectacular moment. The songs in this show are so embedded in our mental playlists that I found myself singing along to numbers I didn’t even realise I knew. Such is the power of this production; it taps into our inherent sentimentality and then holds our attention with a lively, modern remix. Wonderfully ingenuitive with first class performances, this show is a spirit lifting evening of nonstop musical entertainment. And that’s what it’s all about.



Info: What’s It All About? Bacharach Revisited is at The Menier Chocolate Factory until September 5, 2015 | Book tickets



Related links

Anastacia McCleskey - interview




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