A new musical breathes fresh air into classic Burt Bacharach tunes, reports Charles Isherwood in The New York Times (12/6/13). The show is called What’s It All About?: Bacharach Reimagined, and, says Charles, it "reinvigorates the staged-songbook genre by stripping familiar pop songs of their shiny veneer, and by digging into the melancholy and yearning that suffuses so many of the hits Mr. Bacharach wrote with his longtime partner, Hal David." This is presented as "a tightly woven tapestry of more than two dozen Bacharach songs."
The tunes are "refashioned … as neo-folk songs with bare bones and blurred edges. The chorus of one song suddenly pops up in another, or a familiar melody is stripped of its lyrics, transforming it into something haunting – mysterious and intimately known at the same time." Instrumentation is spare, mostly "acoustic guitar, accented by percussion, bass and occasional sprinklings of keyboards." The re-arrangements tend to highlight "the currents of frustration, confusion and sadness in the songs: the trials of searching for love, the misery of losing it."
For example, ‘Promises Promises’ is "scrubbed of its Swinging Sixties jauntiness and … emerges with its sardonic humor brightly spotlit." ‘Do You Know The Way To San Jose?’ is meanwhile reinvented as a hard-charging anthem in a "darker-edged version (that) smartly underscores the edge of disillusionment in Mr. David’s lyrics, which seems to prefigure our current moment of unease with the rat-racing required to make it in expensive urban America." The seven-member band is outfitted hipster-style, with the stage set dominated by a "treehouse made of musical instruments, mostly guitars."