What the World Needs Now: A Celebration of Burt Bacharach

MSO What the World Needs Now photo by Nico KeenanConsidered one of the most important and influential figures of 20th-century popular music, Burt Bacharach was a multi-award winning composer, songwriter, pianist and producer, having won many Grammy and Oscar awards.

His songs have been recorded by over 1,000 different artists, many in collaboration with lyricist Hal David, enjoying extensive chart successes with the likes of Dionne Warwick, Gene Pitney, Tom Jones, Dusty Springfield, The Carpenters and Herb Albert, as well as composing for the big screen and the Broadway Stage.

Passing in 2023, Bacharach left an enduring musical legacy, characterised by sophisticated harmonies and time signature changes, influenced by his background in jazz.

Presented as part of the MSO Icon Series and following on from the success of To Barbra, With Love in 2022, and Hopelessly Devoted: A Celebration of Olivia Newton-John earlier this year, Mark Sutcliffe, Executive Producer and Creative Director, Make My Mark, assembled a stellar line-up of performers including David Campbell, Caroline O’Connor, Jess Hitchcock (substituting for an ill Emma Pask) and Thndo for this Australian premiere performance.

The cast deliver hit after hit, providing the audience many a trip down memory lane. The consumate showman, Campbell excels, effortlessly segueing from a boisterous What’s New Pussycat? to I’ll Never Fall in Love Again and through to This Guy’s in Love with You & I Just Don’t Know What to do with Myself in Act one. Campbell’s act two highlights include God Give Me Strength, Arthur’s Theme and Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head.

Once again, O’Connor proves her credentials as a West End and Broadway star with Anyone Who Had a Heart, I’ll Never Fall in Love Again (duet with Campbell) and Knowing When to Leave in act one. Returning in act two with You’ll Never Get to Heaven If You Break My Heart, an exquisite rendition of One Less Bell/House is Not a Home (in duet with Chantelle Ormandy) and Walk On By.

Fresh from playing Joanne in the national tour of RENT, Thndo brought her unique style of soul with Don’t Make Me Over, Only Love Can Break a Heart, I Say a Little Prayer and Make it Easy on Yourself (duet with Campbell). Thndo’s rendition of Close to You proving an audience and one of the many highlights of the night.

A late addition to the program, Jess Hitchcock, filling in for an ill Emma Pask, showcased her vocal prowess and demonstrated why this artist is a genuine star on the rise with the numbers, Do You Know the Way to San Jose?, Wives & Lovers, Falling Out of Love and The Look of Love.

Under the baton of Conductor Leonard Weiss, the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra impressed with its musical versatility interpreting Nicholas Buc and Jessica Wells lush arrangements, capturing the authentic sound of the Broadway musical, whilst exploring the diversity and complexity of Bacharach’s music.

This exceptional musical ensemble was enhanced by a number of guest musicians, notably, the extraordinary Michael Tyack AM on keyboards, Troy Downward on guitar, Craig Newman on Bass and Kieran Rafferty on drums with Chantelle and Siobhan Ormandy on backing vocals – with Chantelle also stepping out from behind the microphone with a heartfelt rendition of the introspective song, Alfie. Peter Rubie’s lighting created a visual spectacular.

What the World Needs Now is a superbly produced and performed celebration of Burt Bacharach’s extraordinary musical career.

What the World Needs Now: A Celebration of Burt Bacharach
Hamer Hall – Arts Centre Melbourne, St Kilda Road, Melbourne
Performances: Saturday 22 June 2024 -1.00pm & 7.30pm
Information: www.mso.com.au

What the World Needs Now: A Celebration of Burt Bacharach will also be presented by the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra at the Adelaide Festival Centre: 22 & 23 November 2024.

Image: What the World Needs Now: A Celebration of Burt Bacharach – photo by Nico Keenan

Review: Rohan Shearn