Saturday, December 17, 2011

The Old Globe premieres Burt Bacharach's SOME LOVERS

The cast of Some Lovers
Photos by Henry DiRocco

There’s no mistaking the sound of Burt Bacharach’s classic pop songs in Some Lovers now premiering at The Old Globe in San Diego. Co-written by Bacharach and Spring Awakening’s Steven Sater, the world premiere musical is reminiscent of his distinct style of the ‘60s and ‘70s, a period that marked Bacharach’s collaboration with longtime lyricist Hal David. Those early hits like “Walk On By,” “What the World Needs Now is Love,” and “I’ll Never Fall in Love Again” dominated the radio and created the everlasting sound of an easy listening generation, while exploring the many facets of love and romance. They are at once timeless and yet still etched in the past.

But no matter how beautiful or lyrical the melodies are in Some Lovers - and there are many - because we’ve been here before, the piece feels much like its own ‘ghost of Christmas past.’ The musical familiarity that might be excused on songs reflecting the lighter side of love feels more than a little out of place when used to underscore angrier sentiments. Ben’s “A Thousand Things that Were You” and Molly’s “Just Walk Away” are two that are guilty of such treatment, though Michelle Duffy sings her eleven o’clock number with such heated passion that it still remains a high point of the evening.

Based loosely based on O. Henry’s The Gift of the Magi, the story finds Ben (Jason Danieley) and Molly (Duffy), old lovers still filled with regret at the loss of their relationship, drawn back together by a phone call on Christmas Eve. She’s about to lose her apartment and move out of New York City, and he has been unable to find the success as a songwriter he so desperately dreamed of as a young man.

Enter their younger, more innocent selves (Andrew Mueller and Jenni Barber), who use this as a last opportunity to remind them that in the beginning they were happy and if they would only be honest with each other, they could be again. The trip down memory lane meanders through a few of their best, and many of the worst, moments of their relationship as they ponder, for a second time, whether they really are still meant to be together. But since we only see them in the most generalized kind of ‘that was then, this is now’ story line, we miss any growth the two might have achieved in their years apart, and ultimately don’t really care if they get together again.

It isn’t for lack of trying on the actors’ part however. They make the most of what little character development they have to work with, and each finds ways to add what interest he or she can, though the task of the older lovers is somewhat more daunting. In director Will Frears’ staging in the round, all four actors remain on stage alternately participating in or watching their other selves recreate the past and present. And there’s a lot of watching…with wistfulness, or sadness, or disdain…a lot of watching that may evoke feelings from the lovers but ultimately leaves the audience feeling empty.

Ben Stanton’s lighting design sections off the playing areas with elegant, moody pools of light, stunning against the twin black and white baby grand pianos, (set design by Takeshi Kata), but the mirror ball is a confusing distraction. Lon Hoyt and his eight-piece orchestra are hidden below the stage.

The world according to Burt Bacharach will always be one in which a love song, be it bitter or sweet, rings out to speed the passage of time. For many, that in itself is reason enough to make the drive to San Diego to see Some Lovers. Some Lovers runs through December 31 at The Old Globe. Click Here for tickets and more information.

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