Following a hugely successful run at the Menier Chocolate Factory (where it was called What’s it All About), Close to You has made its West End debut and what a show it is.
The concept is fairly simple: bringing together some of Burt Bacharach’s best known and loved songs and reinterpret them in ways that add new depth and meaning to the lyrics. Yet despite the simpleness of the concept, it is a production that is slick, smooth and heartwarming that genuinely makes you smile throughout.
In truth, it feels more like an intimate concert rather than a musical because of the lack of plot or anything else but it works better like this because it allows for the audience to appreciate the music rather than having to wonder how the song fits into the plot.
This level of intimacy is also felt due to the on stage seating for audience members to sit and feel involved with what is happening. Although it is an interesting idea, the extra seating can make the stage feel cluttered and doesn’t give the cast a lot of room to move around in. The set itself is a jumble of furniture and instruments, adds to the cluttered look to the production but it has to be said it is extremely creative.
But there are some wonderful performances to be enjoyed, particularly from the two female stars Anastacia McClesky and Stephanie McKeon, whose vocals are filled with warmth and emotion that it is hard not get drawn in by their performances. Meanwhile Kyle Riabko certainly provides plenty of energy and strong vocals, showing a truly deep understanding of the songs but didn’t seem to take centre stage as much as expected.
The number of songs used in the production are extraordinary and are performed with great energy and enthusiasm by the cast. Songs that really stuck out in the mind were ‘Walk on By’, ‘What the World Needs Now is Love’ and ‘I’ll Never Fall in Love Again’ – all the arrangements of which really allowed the lyrics to stand out and take centre attention but also showed the importance of the music backing it up. However, one number was slightly disappointing to listen to – even if the performance was excellent: ‘Close to You’. It felt like it was mocking the song and seeming to trivialise it – the only time it happens in the entire show.
But despite this, all of the songs flowed well together and there is a naturalness to the production that really keeps the pace and energy going throughout.
It seems that the production is aimed at a younger audience in the way in which the songs have been arranged, introducing the work of Bacharach to a different generation in a stylish and modern way.
Overall, Close to You is a joyful celebration of music that really captures the spirit of the songs perfectly.
Close to You is at the Criterion Theatre and is currently booking until January 10th 2016. To book tickets visit the official website , Theatre Tickets Direct.co.uk , Discount Theatre.com , Last Minute.com and Love Theatre.com .