Music Review: The Definitive Burt Bacharach Songbook, Epstein Theatre, Liverpool starring John Reilly, Lewis Nitikman, Rachel Raynor & Cary Bayliss

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The Definitive Burt Bacharach Songbook

Format: Music Show
Genre: Pop
Performers: John Reilly, Lewis Nitikman, Rachel Raynor & Cary Bayliss
Review Date: July 20 2019
Location: Epstein Theatre, Liverpool
Age Rating: 8+

This show was an ideal way to pay tribute to one of the most famous song-writers in the world over the course of several decades, Burt Bacharach. Indeed, The Definitive Burt Bacharach Songbook took us on a trip down memory lane by performing hits from all sorts of legendary vocalists and groups, and Liverpool’s Epstein Theatre was a suitable platform for the show, given the history of music within the city and the relaxing nature of the Epstein itself.

The stage was set for the musicians in a simplified manner, with the focus being solely on the singers and backing band (though it would have been nice to have a screen with photographs of the different musical icons during their specific songs). John Reilly, who had grown up in Liverpool, introduced himself and his fellow performers, in particular Lewis Nitikman, the musical director who moved to the UK from his home of Vancouver in Canada specifically to work with John. Reilly noted how the concept for this show was the result of a drunken conversation, but here they were performing it for the fifth time, and with plans to tour nationwide in 2020.

It began with Alfie, originally sung by Cilla Black, which ensured that this was well-received in the Epstein Theatre. Make It Easy On Yourself was originally recorded by The Walker Brothers. We then met Rachel Reilly, a very talented female vocalist, who delivered a great rendition of Do You Know The Way To San Jose.

The Look Of Love continued the gentle formula of Bacharach-composed songs at that time, while Reilly gave us his favourite hit from The Stylistics, You’ll Never Get To Heaven. Rachel then reminded us through song that What The World Needs Now Is Love, and then we had a rare unfamiliar Elvis Presley track, Any Day Now. The more recognisable Dusty Springfield tune Wishin’ And Hopin’ was done splendidly by Rachel.

Then, we had what John described as the most romantic song of all-time, This Guy’s In Love With You, which he did very well. There were great musicians on guitar and piano, assisted by Cary Bayliss, a highly-experienced musician who amongst other things had written the Take That hit Everything Changes But You. Both John and Rachel sang I’ll Never Fall In Love Again in a gentle arrangement, and the first half ended with God Give Me Strength, performed passionately by John.

The second half saw John come on in red shoes and a matching red tie to colour-coordinate with Rachel’s red dress. He looked very dapper, though he reminded us that there was no footballing tie-in with his attire! A House Is Not A Home and 24 Hours From Tulsa were done very well, followed by the Dionne Warwick hit Walk On By, accompanied by excellent guitar work to boot. The organist (who had only recently stepped in) gave a great performance of Arthur’s Theme, and then we had the 60s favourite from Sandie Shaw, Always Something There To Remind Me, which was excellently and authentically sang by Rachel.

John surprisingly opted to sing Anyone Who Had A Heart, and it was superb, as it brought the house down at Liverpool Epstein. It was a masterclass for the musicians, too, as they were splendid here. The Aretha Franklin classic I Say A Little Prayer was well-received as well, and then Cary Bayliss stepped forward to demonstrate his own high-quality vocals with What’s New Pussycat. The Carpenters’ classic Close To You was sang smoothly, and we finished off with another famous hit (one that had everybody at Epstein Liverpool singing, swaying and dancing), Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head.

Overall, The Definitive Burt Bacharach Songbook provided a fantastic collection of classic hits that were performed very well by some very talented artists. Add to that some brilliant accompaniments, and you have a show that is highly recommended.

Overall Rating: 9/10 – Outstanding