I have been and still am a huge fan of the musical genius of Hal David and Burt Bacharach. Their songs defined for me the 70's, and some of the 80's, more than any other pop songs of the day. The rhythms were catchy, the arrangements quirky, and the yearning for connection and love connected with this boomer who became a bit disillusioned after the virulent 60’s.
I looked forward with great anticipation to the musical revue Back to Bacharach and David that just opened at the Henry Fonda. It was a glittering opening, complete with red carpets, stars, drinks, and a party, although some who were invited were excluded at the last. Luckier still were the people who got to sit downstairs, where tables were set up and drinks served. The balcony, where many of the critics sat, offered a great view of the stage but was stifling with heat. In any case I sat down, after a delay of 30 minutes, to — I hoped — thoroughly enjoy the evening.
Fans of Bacharach and David will be disappointed. The revue was put together by the talented Kathy Najimy and musical arranger and orchestrator Steve Gunderson, and it promised to be "Sexy, Funny, Hip, Forever.” Frankly, if they had tried to be less hip and definitely less funny (they seemed to make fun of the era and even some of the music) I might have enjoyed it more. When they did “What’s New Pussycat” as an S&M number I realized they were really out to sea. The songs were presented all strung together, which in itself is OK, but the numbers tended to sound alike. The orchestrations were hit and miss, most of the time making the revue sound like a rock concert. The David part of the occasion, those wonderful lyrics, got lost in the shuffle. We just couldn’t get involved with the songs, because the words were de-emphasized and rhythm was all.
Thee performers were talented. The show featured two ex-American Idolers, Diana De Garmo and Tom Lowe. I enjoyed Lowe because at least he got to stand still for a while; he was also adept at the choreography he was given. De Garmo was a strong presence but was saddled with the aforementioned “What’s New Pussycat.” Tressa Thomas has the strongest voice of the group and was best when just allowed to sing. Susan Mosher, a member of the original production, which played in New York in 1993, held her own as well
Back to Bacharach and David plays at the Henry Fonda Theatre until May 17th.