During the decade of their pop collaborations (1960-70), composer Burt Bacharach and lyricist Hal David tapped into a transcendent melodic and rhythmic sophistication that’s impressively honored here by a quartet of vocalists led by American Idol finalist Diana De Garmo. Helmed by co-creator Kathy Najimy, “Back To Bacharach and David” puts the spotlight on the tunes with just a touch of comedic zaniness for accent. The lack of a thematic throughline causes the momentum to falter in places, but the musical output is delicious.
Driven along by a six-piece onstage band led by musical director Ben Toth, this jukebox often strives to mix and match Bacharach/David tunes with similar subject matter, creating a provocative intertwining of voices and melodies. Brit Tom Lowe lends his soaring tenor to a heartfelt, “Trains, Boats and Planes,” while the ladies, led by Susan Mosher, insinuate a lushly harmonized “Message to Michael” within Lowe’s melody.
Similar well-balanced pairings occur with “A House Is Not A Home” (Lowe) and “One Less Bell To Answer” (De Garmo), as well as co-creator Steve Gunderson’s modernistic, four-part harmonized “Close To You,” matched to Lowe’s unaffected, “This Guy’s in Love With You.” A comedic highlight of the show pits the pre-feminist jazz waltz, “Wives and Lovers,” against De Garmo’s sexually liberated take on “What’s New Pussycat” (kudos to Gregg Barnes’ costumes).
A vet of “Hairspray” on Broadway, De Garmo projects an all-grown-up vocal control and a tangible sensuality that permeates such solo fare as the show-opening, bossa-tinged, “The Look of Love,” and a determined, “Don’t Make Me Over.” The singer also displays ample comedy chops as she chews up the scenery with her hyper-kinetic, “I Just Don’t Know What To Do With Myself.”
Fellow “Idol” alum Lowe spotlights a memorable “Alfie” and “Anyone Who Had A Heart.” The multi-lingual singer also takes to the piano to show off his Mandarin version of “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head.”
The power voice in this ensemble belongs to Tressa Thomas, who envelops the stage and the audience with her diva takes on “You’ll Never Get To Heaven,” “The April Fools,” “Reach Out For Me” and a full-throated gospel pairing of “Let Me Be Lonely” and “Let Me Go To Him” (in duet with De Garmo).
Mosher’s voice blends so seamlessly into the group’s harmonies it’s a welcome surprise when she takes the spotlight on such melodically rich tunes as “Are You There With Another Girl,” “I’ll Never Fall in Love Again,” “Do You Know the Way to San Jose” and “Always Something There To Remind Me.”
Helmer Najimy instills just enough comedic infusion into the proceedings, such as the quartet’s zany rendering of “24 Hours From Tulsa,” to make one wish there were more onstage diversion to mitigate the aural bombardment of more than 30 songs in 75 minutes.
The Music Box @ Fonda’s cabaret seating lends itself quite nicely to the proceedings, as do the supportive sets, lighting and sound work of Myung Hee Cho, Anne Militello and Martin Carrillo, respectively.