Burt Bacharach is back, and the Old Globe’s got him—in Some Lovers, the master composer’s first original musical since 1968’s Promises, Promises, and as gorgeously tuneful and romantic a show as you’re likely to see this or any other holiday season.


Steven (Spring Awakening) Sater’s book introduces us to a pair of star-crossed lovers, Ben (Andrew Mueller) and Molly (Jenni Barber), who met, fell in love, and eventually went their separate ways, though hardly without regrets. Now, years later, their older selves (Jason Danieley and Michelle Duffy) reconnect by phone on Christmas Eve, memories never far from their hearts as their younger incarnations relive those early moments of joy, jealousy, and heartbreak. Will this mismatched yet clearly made-for-each-other couple finally get it right by Christmas night, or will they say farewell for good?

For that, you’ll just have to head on down to San Diego, a drive well worth making if only to hear nearly twenty brand new Bacharach melodies which prove beyond a doubt that Burt’s still got the magic touch—though this is far from the only reason not to miss Some Lovers at the Globe.


Sater’s lyrics fit Bacharach’s signature sound every bit as perfectly as Hal David’s did in a heyday which produced “Alfie,” “Anyone Who Had a Heart,” “Are You There (With Another Girl)?,” “I Just Don’t Know What to Do with Myself,” “I Say a Little Prayer,” “Message to Michael,” “My Little Red Book,” “Trains and Boats and Planes,” “What the World Needs Now Is Love,” “What’s New Pussycat?,” “Wishin’ and Hopin’,” and “Wives and Lovers,” all of them within a five-year period during the mid-‘60s, and that’s not counting all the hits which came before and later.

Some Lovers takes as its inspiration O’Henry’s The Gift Of The Magi, a concept that doesn’t work as well as Sater probably intended, but no matter. With Bacharach’s distinctive melodies and rhythms, orchestrated by Jonathan Tunick in a style at once classically Bacharach and contemporary, and brought to vocal life by a quartet of actors who sing every bit as superbly as they act, Some Lovers will grab any romantic by the heart and not let go throughout its intermissionless ninety-five minutes.

We first meet today’s Ben on Christmas Eve as he struggles to write a holiday song and finds himself writing “Moon River,” the first of numerous hit songs to intrude upon his songwriter’s imagination. With memories of Christmas Eves past still vivid in his mind, Ben decides to give Molly a call, only to discover that she is selling her apartment and moving away from her native New York City because, as she puts it, “it’s all closing down, the world we knew.”

The conversation sends both Ben and Molly back in time to their first, flirtatious meeting, and then on to Ben’s dreams of becoming a hit songwriter with Molly as his muse. (“Your music is your gift to other lovers,” she tells him. “You’ve got to get your music out there.”) From there we segue to first time Molly heard one of Ben’s songs on the radio, and to the trip to Europe they embarked on in celebration. Like so many young lovers, Ben and Molly soon find themselves so busy pursuing their individual dreams that they scarcely have time to spend with each other, prompting Molly to suggest they move in together. Soon, however, Ben’s musical collaboration with a singer referred to only as “that girl” becomes too close for Molly’s comfort. (“It’s like she’s turning my life into her Greatest Hits.”) Perhaps Shakespeare put it best when he wrote that line about “the course of true love.”

Under Will Frears’ ingenious direction, complemented by Denis Jones’ equally inspired musical staging, Ben and Molly find their present and past lives and selves intertwining in-the-round, the Sheryl And Harvey White’s arena stage proving the perfect setting for a chamber musical as intimate as Some Lovers.


Barber, who’s already got Broadway on her list of credits, makes for an absolutely enchanting Young Molly. As for Young Ben, Mueller’s edgy charisma and sensational pipes foretell a major career ahead for this fresh new leading man. Angelinos will remember Broadway’s Danieley from his stellar turn as Starbuck in the Pasadena Playhouse’s 110 In The Shade, and he is his velvet-voiced best as present-day Ben. Finally, the divine Duffy (whose many awards include a whole bunch of Scenies, one of them as Performer Of The Year) simply couldn’t be more wonderful as today’s Molly, demonstrating the dramatic chops recently showcased in the Colony’s Shooting Star, and the rich, warm, powerful belt of a voice that made her Pasadena Playhouse star turns in Mask and Can-Can so unforgettable. (Thanks to the Old Globe for not seeing the “need” to cast this role out of New York!)

Sater’s book melds past and present seamlessly, sometimes a tad too seamlessly, since a bit more plot clarity might be in order. Having The Gift Of The Magi as a leitmotif works to a certain extent, O’Henry’s story becoming a tale the young couple read to each other each Christmas Eve. Still, it could be made clearer just how Ben and Molly’s own love story reflects James and Della’s. (You must remember how James sold his watch to buy combs for Della’s gorgeous long hair the same Christmas that Della sold her hair to buy James a watch chain.)  And why not give Molly’s rival a name, instead of the cutesy “that girl.”

Still, despite any revisions Sater’s book might need to undergo, Some Lovers is a musical this reviewer would gladly see again and again, if only to hear Bacharach’s extraordinary songwriting gifts once, twice, three times more. A video clip showcases the Old Globe’s foursome singing “Every Other Hour,” already a smash hit in Italy, and this is but one of more than a dozen and a half Bacharach melodies featured in Some Lovers. Not to record and release a cast album of this score would be criminal.

Tunick’s orchestrations and Annmarie Milazzo’s vocal design are as gorgeous as they come. Takashi Kato’s spare but marvelous scenic design features a pair of grand pianos (both Danieley and Mueller tickle the ivories) and a bed that rises up out of the floor whenever needed. Ben Stanton’s lighting design is as magical as a piece like Some Lovers deserves. Jenny Mannis has designed some wonderful costumes for both Bens and Mollys to wear. Leon Rothenberg’s sound design simply couldn’t provide a more crystal clear mix of the production’s voices and live orchestra, hidden under the stage and performing under Lon Hoyt’s impeccable music supervision.

Matthew Silver is stage manager and Jennifer Leigh Wheeler assistant stage manager. Casting is by Jim Carnahan, CSA.

With How The Grinch Stole Christmas playing right next door on the Donald and Darlene Shirley Stage, San Diego’s venerable Old Globe offers its patrons—and road-trip-minded Angelinos—ideal holiday entertainment for all ages. As for Some Lovers, simply put, it is in a class all by itself.

Old Globe Sheryl and Harvey White Theatre, Balboa Park, San Diego.

–Steven Stanley
December 11, 2011
Photos: Henry DiRocco

Comments are closed.