Review Roundup: WHAT'S IT ALL ABOUT? BACHARACH REIMAGINED
The New York Theatre Workshop production of the world premiere of What's It All About? Bacharach Reimagined, features music by Burt Bacharach; lyrics by Hal David and others, musical arrangements by Kyle Riabko, conceived by Kyle Riabko and David Lane Seltzer, and directed bySteven Hoggett. The cast includes Daniel Bailen, Laura Dreyfuss, James Nathan Hopkins, Nathaly Lopez, Kyle Riabko, James Williams, and Daniel Woods.
The enduring music of Burt Bacharach is given new life as musician and actor Kyle Riabko (Spring Awakening, Hair) performs his unique, soulful arrangements of the Bacharach songbook with an eclectic group of young musicians and performers.Steven Hoggett, whose choreography has been featured in such diverse works as Once, Peter and the Starcatcher, and Black Watch, returns to NYTW, this time as director. What's It All About? is a re-introduction to the timeless music of Bacharach through the eyes and ears of a new generation.
Let's see what the critics had to say...
Charles Isherwood, New York Times: As a whole, the cast is never more appealing than in a surprising acoustic encore that follows the official one (a rollicking version of another song I'd forgotten Mr. Bacharach composed: "What's New Pussycat?"). True, it's a bit of a spoiler to say more, but linger in front of the theater as you take your leave. No matter how cold it might get - and even if a few raindrops do fall on your head - it will be worth your while.
Melissa Rose Bernardo, Entertainment Weekly: The twentysomething Riabko is the wonderfully appealing star/cocreator/musical director ofWhat's It All About, a creatively cluttered revue roughly three dozen Burt Bacharach gems ''reimagined'' for the Spring Awakening generation. Translation: Seven fresh-faced, musically ambidextrous actors play their own instruments, perform tight minimalist choreography by Hoggett (Once,Black Watch), and loll about on couches between songs. (Oh yes, the thrift-store-chic couches! They provide on-stage seating for a small group of audience members as well.)
Joe Dziemianowicz, Daily News: he show is at its most beautiful and illuminating during a scene that's still. Picture this: a young man embraces a girl with a guitar slung behind her back. Then he strums the instrument and sings "Making Love." So inspired, so intimate - the kind of moment you say a little prayer for. And the kind the show needed more of.
Linda Winer, Newsday: Riabko and his band of mopey sentimentalists like to intone a sad-sack bah-bah-bah or wah-wah-wah before working in such stubbornly jaunty lines as "What do you get when you fall in love" or "Why do birds suddenly appear" or "There are mountains and hillsides enough to climb." Bacharach, with his six Grammys and three Oscars, wrote iconic themes for '60s and '70s popCorn Movies. He also wrote a number of beautiful breakup songs that wear their artistry lightly, with a shrug and a sigh. Heavy emoting is the wrong kind of cool.
Matt Windman, amNY: the show, as directed by Steven Hoggett, is more of a generic cover band tribute than a piece of musical theater. With song after song offered in a similar manner and with little movement, it is a visual bore and a homogenized musical mush.
Jesse Green, Vulture: The tunes are lifted off their original arrangements and pinned to a sparer, indie-rock template. They are rarely, however, reharmonized; they remain pleasantly familiar. But to the extent that they are heavily revoiced and slowed down, they are pleasantly unfamiliar, too.
Jennifer Farrar, Associated Press: When it's over, you may find yourself yearning to hear some of the original interpretations of these songs by masters like the elegant Dionne Warwick. However, the fun, youthful vibe of this show brings a new flavor to Bacharach's timeless classics.
Robert Kahn, NBC New York: Riabko and his colleagues successfully walk a tightrope between respecting an institution and leaving their own imprint, though they skew more toward the former. And that's fine. There's no need to mess with music that's as inviting and sugary-sweet as a caramel-coated ice cream sundae. Has anyone written pop music more likely to leave you in diabetic shock, or happier that you got there?
Photo Credit: Jennifer Broski