By: Sandi Durell
If you always liked Bacharach’s music, let’s hope you’ll feel the same – if you’ve never been particularly fond of his music, you may decide you now love it! It’s a real mash-up of what most of us know as Bacharach’s songs now “Reimagined” at the NY Theatre Workshop in the small downtown setting. The theater has a real 60s feel to it – rugs on the walls – a hodgepodge of messiness of comfortable looking chairs and shabby chic couches on stage (some of them for the gallery of audience members, others for the cast), lots of lamps, along with a central ceiling to floor hanging installation of guitars (set design: Christine Jones & Brett J. Banakis), with brilliant light design by Japhy Weideman.
As the story goes, young uber-talented Kyle Riabko (the leader of this pack on vocals & guitar and responsible for arrangements, direction, and as co-conceiver) has always been a fan of Bacharach’s music; he meets the tunesmith at a recording studio and sings some demos. There’s some talk with Bacharach’s manager about Kyle looking into the Bacharach catalogue, as he imagines the music re-arranged. Things move along and Riabko does some re-arranging and wha-la! both Burt and Hal David give their blessings. And the rest is history as director Steven Hoggett (“Once”) gets excited about the project and it launches in December 2013 at NYTW.
If you’re one of the 20-somethings in the audience, you’re gonna love the contemporary treatment and driving momentum given to some of the tunes that have now been treated ala rock concert style – – like “Message to Michael,” in a hot, twanging guitar, choreographed number, lights blazing, with the entire group jumping around (might require ear plugs).
There’s no doubt this cast of youngsters, who sing, play a variety of instruments and move well, are extremely talented – and they include Daniel Bailen (vocals, bass), Laura Dreyfuss (vocals), James Nathan Hopkins (vocals, keyboards), Nathaly Lopez (vocals), James Williams (vocals, percussion) and Daniel Woods (vocals, guitar).
Many of the 30 some Bacharach songs performed, one after another, in 90 minutes, are left basically untouched but reimagined with soft rock beats, different phrasing techniques – like an introspective “Walk on By,” on the smaller of two turntable stages, “Make It Easy on Yourself” or male duet “I’ll Never Fall in Love Again.” Riabko uses a running theme in many of the songs with the line “what’s it all about” or “raindrops keep falling on my head.” There are super good harmonies and interesting choreographic moves and some songs feature a mash-up of several of the tunes together and, dare I say, I even heard a remnant of rap. And it’s surely fun hearing old favorites like “Do You Know the Way to San Jose?” and “What’s New Pussycat?
However, it’s the delivery of the songs that are generational – sometimes almost emotionless, caricaturist at times or all too hot and heavy. I thought of flower children and chanting through some of what I was watching but cartoon-like.
Riabko finally gets to do “Alfie” and the group concludes with a big old “What The World Needs Now is Love” – – this new twist might be just the thing, as it brings Bacharach music to a whole new generation of young theater-goers.
If It’s all right with Burt, who am I to contradict the master? He OK’d having his songs “Reimagined!”
www.nytw.org East 4th Street (bet. 2nd Ave. & Bowery), extended thru Feb. 16th.
*Photos: Joan Marcus