Burt Bacharach, at 83 years old, is still telling us that what the world needs now is love, sweet love.
There’s no other way to view Some Lovers, Bacharach’s first original stage work since he and Hal David (with a book by Neil Simon) collaborated on Promises, Promises back in 1968. Some Lovers, which runs through Dec. 31 on the Old Globe’s Sheryl and Harvey White stage, is also Bacharach’s first full-length musical score in nearly five years. It’s about love past and present, and in this one-act holiday nibble, the two are intertwined.
Ben and Molly, both young and middle-aged versions, share the theater-in-the-round stage throughout Some Lovers, which is set on a Christmas Eve in New York City. At the same time that young Ben (Andrew Mueller), an aspiring songwriter, and young Molly (Jenni Barber) are falling giddily in love, the older, solemn Ben (Jason Danieley) is finding out in a phone call with the older, sadly resigned Molly (Michelle Duffy) that she is moving to Michigan. The two scenarios play out in sync, frequently interrupting each other in earnest attempts to rewrite the past. Will present-day Ben and Molly learn from the emotional trials of their younger selves and reunite on Christmas Eve? That is the question.
Besides the holiday seasoning, the musical, which Bacharach wrote with Steven Sater (“Spring Awakening”), wraps itself around the irony and sentiment of O. Henry’s short story “The Gift of the Magi.” It’s a narrative device that feels overplayed and more like a Christmassy gimmick than anything else. Ben and Molly’s down-but-not-out relationship, in all its fleeting joys and disillusionments, should be enough.
It doesn’t really matter. Some Lovers is a chance for Bacharach fans to bask in the master tunesmith’s enduring knack for breezy pop and dulcet ballads. The jangly title song sounds right out of Bacharach’s hall of fame canon, as does “Welcome to My World.” “Ready To Be Done With You” is as good a breakup song as Bacharach has written (credit Sater’s lyrics, too).
The Bens and Mollys of both eras are likable and sincere performers, and even if we know how this one’s going to end, we’re happy for all concerned.
David L. Coddon is theater critic for San Diego CityBeat