White go-go boots, argyle sweaters, swirly-print dresses in bright pink, yellow and blue. Welcome back to the 1960s and 1970s.
“Back to Bacharach and David,” a musical revue that opened Thursday as a fundraiser for the Children’s Respite Care Center, takes you back in style with a combination of strong vocals, stylized staging and movement, and the hits of composer Burt Bacharach and lyricist Hal David.
The no-script, all-singing show revisits a couple dozen of the pair’s Top 40 hits, often reimagining them by overlapping or weaving together two songs or by vocally rearranging familiar hits in tight, often atonal harmonies. Think Manhattan Transfer.
While Bacharach developed a reputation for laid-back tunes (some derided it as elevator music), this is actually devilishly difficult stuff to sing, combining tricky rhythm patterns and note intervals every bit as challenging as Sondheim.
Happily, director M. Michele Phillips and music director Keith Hart have cast five strong singers who not only cover these hits but make them their own.
Veronica Benton showcases a fine soprano voice on lesser known hits like “I Just Have to Breathe” and “Another Night,” plus more familiar tunes like “I Say a Little Prayer.”
Theresa Sindelar and Dan Chevalier, often seen in comedic stage roles, change things up. There’s a bit of clowning on “The April Fools” or “You’ll Never Get to Heaven,” but also emotionally affecting solo work on “One Less Bell to Answer” (Sindelar) and “Anyone Who Has a Heart” (Chevalier).
Baritone D. Kevin Williams is also versatile, covering the less well known “A House Is Not a Home” as well as familiar hits “Alfie” and “I Just Don’t Know What to Do With Myself.”
The standout was the solo work by Bailey Carlson, who turned “Let Me Be Lonely” and the country-tinged “Don’t Make Me Over” into emotive storytelling and song styling.
But my favorite part of the evening was when all five vocalists combined for entirely new stylings on “Close to You,” “What the World Needs Now” and “The Look of Love.” The vocal blend was smooth, the synchronization tight.
Two keyboards, drums and guitar provided fine accompaniment from center stage, while the singers roamed across multilevel platforms.
The show’s look combines slides on a large rear-projection screen (Peter Max artwork, colorful graphics, some in motion) framed by tall white drapery perfect for reflecting Carol Wisner’s changeable pastel mood lighting. Clean and crisp choreography by Patrick Roddy called to mind the backup singers from 1960s television variety shows, reinforcing the time warp.
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