The Look of Love
Thursday, July 29
Reviewed by Damian Thorne
Ali Harper is the tonic the world needs right now. I urge you to pull yourself away from the Olympics and be present for Ali and her latest gold medal show.
I was gutted to leave at the halfway mark, called away to an emergency, perhaps even harder than the first time I left my son at daycare.
A darkened Globe stage, with music arranger / conductor / mixer / producer Tom Rainey at piano, and Harry Harrison seated on guitar, comes alive on the line "Why do birds suddenly appear" as Harper enters stage right in a gorgeous, must-be-custom black sequined one piece, with billowing chiffon sleeves and a well-cut jacket.
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There's something sensational about a grand entrance, and even a theatre I know like the back of my hand seems transformed by Harper's mere presence. As she finished out Close to Me in her unique way Harper showed that even Burt Bacharach can be improved, and very much set a tone for the rest of what I saw, putting her stamp on the tunes of such an already totally fab musician.
With a show called The Look of Love the evening is always going to be about the legend that is Burt Bacharach. As an audience member discovering Ali Harper for the first time I was excited to learn much about Bacharach, a musician I've always admired. It's not just the clever, detailed, intricate music of Bacharach that Harper has pored over with collaborator Tom Rainey, it's the stories that go with the songs.
I'm not usually a fan of mimicry, but when Harper does Dietrich, it's so well researched and referenced that I'm pretty much watching Dietrich, with Rainey channelling Burt right by her side.
While in full control of every nuance, Harper is a rare, generous performer, who yields to the two men she shares the Globe stage with, allowing them to shine beyond their impressive support roles.
There's much to be taken in as Harper goes through the mechanics of a Bacharach song, how most composers would be happy adding a bass line, he would go further, always going for a richer, jazzier sound. We are even schooled in how to deal with a tongue twister as Harper takes us to San Jose (do you know the way?) and explains the extraordinary lyrical stylings of Bacharach's colab partner Hal David.
In a way I'm lucky, even to have departed prematurely, because 45 minutes of Ali Harper is better than no Ali Harper at all. I only hope I am able to return tonight (July 30) and catch the second 45 minutes as Ali Harper is, most certainly, my new favourite crush. I'm hoping I see you there Palmy!
The Look of Love is on again tonight at 7.30pm. Tickets from the venue.