By the time that the prolific song-writing team Burt Bacharach and Hal David won the Tony for their first and regrettably only Broadway venture “Promises, Promises,” they were in the process of chalking up somewhere around 50 hit singles. As virtually the last holdouts of melodic pop against the encroaching rock and roll era, they may be credited with symbolically providing the last rites to an entire music genre. Their songs can now be said to provide, for those of a certain age, a sense of warm-hearted nostalgia. I must confess that “Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head” comes to mind every time I’m caught in the rain.
Those of a certain age, however, will be the only ones likely to get caught at “The Look of Love,” the mainly tepid, occasionally terrible, revue produced by the Roundabout Theater. This is the kind of misguided display of fine talent that makes you wonder what kind of “Wishin’ and Hopin'” that collaborators Scott Ellis (director), Ann Reinking (choreography), David Loud (musical direction), and David Thompson (God knows what) were doin’. That is besides just rolling out 29 of the team’s most familiar songs. One thing that may come to your mind, as it wanders during the course of the show, is how much Derek McLane’s setting – a maze of chicken wire, steps and towers – suggests a large holding pen for suspected terrorists.
Virtual prisoners of love (apologies to Mel Brooks), the company has been unleashed with no more motivation than to showcase themselves in a string of songs that provide no thematic intent or emotional urgency. It’s unfortunate that such songs as “Make It Easy On Yourself,” “A House Is Not a Home,” and “I’ll Never Fall in Love Again” and, indeed, all the rest invite little excitement. The singers vainly attempt to muster up synthetic feelings as the dancers generally comply with embarrassing displays of vulgar exhibitionism (notably in a tasteless reconsideration of “What’s New Pussycat?)
When polished and classy performers such as Broadway veteran Liz Callaway (“Merrily We Roll Along,” “Baby,” “Miss Saigon”) and Capathia Jenkins (“Civil War”), as a Dionne Warwick substitute, attempt to provide some inner life to relatively uncomplicated songs, the effect is still-born. When the gentle and folksy “I’ll Never Fall in Love Again” is sung in Spanish by Kevin Ceballo and danced in orgiastic spasms by Shannon Lewis, you’ll see how desperate staging can get.
Despite the capability of dancers Desmond Richardson and Eugene Fleming, who provide a vigorous meeting of tap and ballet to the melodic rhythm of “Raindrops…”, you will get the distinct impression that choreographer Reinking is merely recycling steps with moves that kept falling from her head.
Janine LaManna, who made an impression in “Seussical,” looks good, but sounds terrible, generally given to screaming out her songs (“You’ll Never Get to Heaven (If You Break My Heart),” “Another Night”) as if she were angry at the world, or maybe just at the director. Scott Ellis, who so brilliantly directed the revivals of “She Loves Me,” and “1776,” seems to have gotten himself into a rut with the more recent musicals, “The Boys From Syracuse” and “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer.” Ellis seems to have no clue how to provide either a clever context or contrivance for a show that simply moves from one song to another with no apparent logic, reason, or impetus.
Even if Loud’s arrangements, and Thompson’s (I’m still trying to figure this one out) contribution had been more distinct or impressive, the show, to be honest, would still be basically awful. Obviously inspired by the lack of inspiration that seems to have propelled everyone around him, costume designer Martin Pakledinaz provided the most undistinguished collection of wearing apparel to ever get credit with the words “designed by…”. Except for Howard Binkley’s busy lighting, we get mostly “Promises, Promises,” but little else from “The Look of Love.”
“The Look of Love” (through June 15th)
A Roundabout Theater production at the Brooks Atkinson Theater
256 West 47th Street
For tickets ($30 – $90) call 212 – 307 – 4100