What’s It All About?**** (Menier Chocolate Factory)

Posted: July 16, 2015 in Theatre

 

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Anyone who still thinks that the Beatles wrote the only songbook of the 1960s needs to rock on down to the Menier Chocolate Factory and listen to some Burt Bacharach, whose songs are being rediscovered, reinvented and reimagined by Kyle Riabko and six other hugely talented musicians in a show that first appeared in New York in 2013. The rediscovery process for each song takes very little time for the listener – two bars of the intro and we’re all singing along. Riabko’s arrangements present the songs in styles ranging from soft jazz to hard rock, accompanied by guitars, keyboards and percussion. If some of what transpires is surprising, what could be more appropriate for a composer renowned for sudden key changes and taking melodies in unexpected directions? Yes, the songs come across as bright and fresh, but no, the brilliance of the stars of 60s is never lost – Dionne and Dusty, Sandie and Cilla, and many, many more are all still here in spirit. The staging too matches the musicianship; the Menier becomes a vibrant cellar club, with chairs and sofas all around the stage and the movement in Steven Hogget’s impeccably choreographed production flows with the constantly changing rhythms. Anastacia McCleskey’s soulful Don’t Make Me Over stands out, but this is a show with 30 or so highlights, knitted together to perfection in solos, group numbers and medleys. Of course, lyricist Hal David played a big role in creating all this. There are no spoken words in the show, no story holds it all together and the result is a format that delivers a perfect kick in the groin for those “juke box” musicals that bore us with the same old tale of the rags-to-riches rise of some pop icon(s) when all we really want is to hear the music. Here there is only music, 90 minutes of it straight through, complemented by superb staging. A great night out!

Performance date: 14 July 2015

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