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A CurtainUp London London Review
Close to You

"And walk on by
I just can't get over losing you
And so if I seem broken and blue
Walk on by, walk on by."
— Lyrics to Walk On By
Close to You
Kyle Riabko (Photo: Johan Persson)
In a wonderfully evocative evening, Burt Bacharach was there to see London's opening night of the show Close to You at the Criterion Theatre, which features those wonderful songs, many of which you will know but you may not always realise were written by composer Burt Bacharach. Starting with a Perry Como hit from 1957 "Magic Moments" to later iconic film tunes like "Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head", "Alfie" and Tom Jones' "What's New Pussycat?" with all those wonderful soulful Donne Warwick numbers of the late 1960s like "Anyone Who Had A Heart" and "Walk On By". The Bacharach songbook is like a well loved cookbook, we know all the tunes and words off by heart and each time we hear them, it is sheer pleasure.

The show which has brought these tunes to the stage is by Kyle Riabko, a singer and guitarist whose up beat arrangements form this show which is subtitled, Bacharach Reimagined. Bacharach's tunes are constantly being reinvented as all those reality singing talent shows like The X Factor look for "new" material and contestants are rewarded for putting their own interpretation on these lovely tunes.

So a younger generation will be rediscovering this composer. Close to You sold out at the Menier Chocolate Factory's intimate venue where the high rise furniture set surrounded the audience. Here at The Criterion, the armchairs and sofas are stacked up vertically like some kind of strange second hand furniture store display and surround the performers with some audience members seated on the stage. Standard lamps with large fringed lampshades give soft lighting with a period feel.

Seven singer musicians sing and play with new styles to some of the tunes. There is a reggae beat to "I'll Never Fall In Love Again" which segues into "What Do You Get When You Fall In Love". Songs that British women recorded are there, bare foot Sandie Shaw's "There's Always Something There to Remind Me", Dusty Springfield "Wishin' and Hopin' ", "A House Is Not A Home" and "I Just Don't Know What To Do With Myself" and Cilla Black's "Alfie".

"Close To You" is not a musical but a concert with a set and lighting. As an example, a very sad song like "There's Always Something There To Remind Me" is celebrated as a great tune but the jamming rendition doesn't convey any of the emotion of the beautiful words as singers grin while singing sad lyrics. In a musical the singers would be feeling the emotion.

Kyle Riabko plays his guitar while embracing Stefanie McKeon so he cannot see where his fingers are on the guitar. The show closed with all seven performers singing "What The World Needs Now Is Love Sweet Love". As a special treat on opening night the band and cast took to the streets to entertain the crowd at Piccadilly Circus.

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Close to You
Composer: Burt Bacharach
Lyricist: Hal David and Others
Co-conceiver/Arranger/Music Director: Kyle Riabko
Co-conceiver: David Lane Selzer
Directed by Steven Hoggett

Starring: Kyle Riabko, Daniel Bailen, Greg Coulson, Anastacia McCleskey, Stephanie McKeon, Renato Paris, James Williams
Set Design: Christine Jones and Brett J Banakis
Costume Design: Matthew Wright
Lighting: Tim Lutkin
Sound: Richard Brooker
Running time: Two hour 30 minutes with an interval
Box Office 020 7492 0810
Booking to 10th January 2016
Reviewed by Lizzie Loveridge based on 15th October 2015 performance at The Criterion, Piccadilly Circus London SW1Y 4XA (Tube: Piccadilly Circus)
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