By Lori Simmons Zelenko
Rock-star sexy Kyle Riabko re-imagines some of our favorite songs – “The Look of Love” and “Do You Know The Way To San Jose” or “Close to You” and the saucy “What’s New Pussycat?” – as a relevant voice for generations then and now. These top 40 hits by Burt Bachrach a composer whose pop culture icon status is re-imagined here, are stripped of their glossy façade, pared down with a soundtrack of mostly guitars and drums, for the Off -Broadway revue “What’s It All About? Bachrach Re-Imagined.”
Letting the songs’ unique musicality speak for itself “What’s It All About?” becomes a dialog about love and its disappointments, about life and relationships once full of promise now full of doubt, shared through the soundtrack of Burt Bachrach’s music whose hits – chart-toppers and Oscar winners – each and every one memorable, hummable favorites are revealed here with new emotion. These pop tunes come across as almost a narrative reflecting the changing times of the late 60s into the 70s as modern love evolved and traditional romance took a back seat. But the message and the music remains current and on target. It’s no wonder Burt Bachrach is celebrated as one of the world’s greatest composers.
This is not a traditional revue where songs are performed continuously as a whole, rather fragments of favorite tunes form a refrain – a chorus heard intermittently, teasing us with hints of “Alfie” and “Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head” – leaving us hungry for the whole song and so satisfied when it finally arrives. These songs of love sought and love lost, poignant some and others buoyant, are performed by a youthful, vibrant cast led by 20-something Riabko and set against a background of well-worn sofas, tattered rugs and a mountain of guitars – a college dorm room re-imagined. Laid bare so to speak – without horns and string sections to elaborate – the songs, no longer shiny pop anthems take on a fresh, authentic nature as they become about our
search for a real connection – and our need to understand why it’s so elusive.
“What’s It All About – Bachrach Re-Imagined” is at The New York Theater Workshop, 79 East Fourth Street, East Village, (212) 279-4200, nytw.org. Through Feb. 2, 2014