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Close to You: Bacharach Reimagined review at the Criterion Theatre, London – ‘electrifying’

Kyle Riabko in Close to You. Photo: Johan Persson Kyle Riabko in Close to You. Photo: Johan Persson
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Part gig, part immersive movement piece, Close to You: Bacharach Reimagined is an evening that brings Burt Bacharach back to the West End in all his musical glory for the first time in 46 years, since his one (and sadly only) Broadway musical Promises, Promises transferred to the Prince of Wales from Broadway in 1969.

One of the  many great numbers heard here is (There’s) Always Something There to Remind Me, and Bacharach’s great catalogue provides a carousel of memories, to which this dazzling show adds a whole bunch more.

First produced at Off-Broadway’s New York Theatre Workshop in 2013, it was then restaged at London’s Menier Chocolate Factory last summer with co-creator and lead singer/guitarist Kyle Riabko recreating his New York troubadour performance, alongside fellow imports Daniel Bailen and James Williams, joining a new company featuring the big voiced American Anastacia McCleskey, the laid-back Dublin-born Stephanie McKeon, and British additions Greg Coulson and Renato Paris. The musicianship of the entire ensemble is absolutely superb, and their palpable love for the material is truly infectious.

The West End transfer may have lost a little bit of the lounge-like intimacy of the Menier, though it still seats a few spectators on the stage set, and it has also added an entirely unnecessary interval before a 25-minute second act. But as the three dozen Bacharach numbers that have been variously mashed-up, re-orchestrated and reimagined here unfold, we are once again swept up in a flurry of movement and music that turns this into simultaneously the hippest and hottest musical night in town.

Director/choreographer Steven Hoggett achieves an absolutely electrifying sense of organic movement, as songs are made to segue, merge and blend with each other seamlessly.

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There's no plot, but there’s lots of motion and emotion conveyed through Bacharach’s compelling songbook