The Look Of Love
Direction: Musical Arranger – Tom Rainey, Musical Director – Tom McLeod, Performer – Ali Harper
Circa Theatre; Circa One (January 23 – February 20) [Ali-Cat Productions Ltd]
I last saw the wonderful, multi-talented Ali Harper as the lead and only person on stage in Songs For Nobodies – she played a dozen characters. She sang. Told stories. Changed race and sex. All with the voice and gesture she was given and developed via her extensive training and performing experience.
As well as starring in shows written by other people Ali runs her own production company and devises shows for herself.
In this tribute to the amazing songs of Burt Bacharach she is – essentially – Ali Harper, singer. She acts in the sense that when you’re living the life of a well known song as you present it there is a performative quality. And she narrates, gives some background stories around the creation of the songs and the biography of the man. But really this is a show where it’s about Ali Harper singing some classic songs. Some songs so classic that you’re thinking the whole time about what will make the cut and what will be left out. You’re pleasantly surprised by what is included and the way it’s presented.
Helping Harper to put these versions of some of pop music’s finest triumphs back into the hearts and minds of the audience is the pianist and musical director Tom McLeod and guitarist Callum Allardice (both offering backing vocals too). There are recorded backing tracks to flesh out the material since Bacharach is all about the arrangements.
Harper’s great character skills come into play when telling the story of how Burt was the touring pianist for Marlene Dietrich. Harper can then fall effortlessly into a flawless Deitrich impersonation.
This musical showcase is really the sort of light and bright entertainment that might once have been a cruise ship staple. But there are no cruise ships any longer. So on dry land this show is given the chance to strut and never fret. And it’s so good. Harper is great. Her band is wonderful. But both know that it’s the songs that really matter – and they never hide that for a second.
Such monumental songs: Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head, That’s What Friends Are Fall and What’s It All About Alfie…
The closer – What The World Needs Now – is served up with the reminder that we’re lucky to even have shows to go and see. It was a thin run at Circa Theatre last year, and elsewhere in New Zealand and across the world, because of Covid. We’re back. It’s all up and running. And we’re grateful for that. You feel that in any show you go to – a bond between audience and performer/s.
Harper is particularly good at drawing people into the worlds she designs, the worlds of music she loves to share.
This review is ecstatic but arrives late because of summer holidaying. If you read this and still have the chance to go along make sure you get there for a great night of glorious music.
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