Theatre Royal, 78 Rutherford Street, Nelson

14/03/2020 - 14/03/2020

Circa One, Circa Theatre, 1 Taranaki St, Waterfront, Wellington

23/01/2021 - 20/02/2021

The Piano, 156 Armagh Street, Christchurch

17/12/2020 - 19/12/2020

Production Details

A musical feast for the heart and soul

Burt Bacharach’s hit songs have a sound like no other… poignant, atmospheric, beautiful. The king of love songs in the 60s and 70s, Bacharach’s music has stood the test of time and continues to touch millions of hearts all over the world.

Spend an evening with Ali Harper as she showcases the Grammy award winner’s extensive collection – Close To You, Alfie, That’s What Friends Are For, Walk On By, Anyone Who Had A Heart and reminds us What The World Needs Now in the The Look of Love.

If you enjoyed Ali’s previous shows at Circa Theatre – Songs For Nobodies (Awarded Best One Woman Show at the United Solo Festival, New York 2018), A Doris Day Special, Legendary Divas, Bombshells (Awarded Best Actress, United Solo Festival, New York 2016 & Best Actress, Chapman Tripp Awards 2008) and Tell Me On A Sunday – then you won’t want to miss Ali’s latest show The Look of Love.

‘Ali Harper lights up every room she enters, owns every stage she steps upon, steals every heart that hears her sing’ — Alex Rybeck, New York

‘Harper transcends the “star” label to prove herself a true artist’ — John Smythe, Theatreview

‘Harper is a songwriter’s dream. Magical and in complete command of the stage’ — Christine Lavin, award-winning New York singer, songwriter


NELSON: Theatre Royal Nelson, Saturday 14 March 2020: 2:00pm
NELSON: Theatre Royal Nelson, Saturday 14 March 2020

ASHBURTON: Ashburton Trust Event Centre, Saturday 19 March 2020: 7:30pm 

POSTPONED intil further notice: 

CHRISTCHURCH: The Piano Centre for Music & The Arts, Saturday 21 March 2020: 2:00pm and 7:30pm, and Saturday 28 March 2020: 2:00pm and 7:30pm
Book through The Court Theatre (4 performances)

WELLINGTON: Circa Theatre:   04 April 2020 – 02 May 2020
Bookings open in February 2020:

INVERCARGILL: Civic Centre (Invercargill Arts Festival):   16 May 7:30pm
Bookings open in February 2020:  Performance will be with the Ascot Hotel Brass Band


The Piano Centre for Music & The Arts

The Look of Love – Ali Harper
17 Dec, 6.30pm
18 Dec. 7:30pm
19 Dec, 2pm & 7.30pm 
Circa One
Saturday 23 January – Saturday 20 February 2021
Tues – Thurs 6.30pm;
Fri – Sat 8pm
& Sun 4pm
$25 – $52  
Note: $42 ‘Concession’ price (Community Services Card, Gold Card or student ID required)
Book Now!  

Theatre , Solo , Musical ,

1 hr 30 min

A vocal and dramatic masterclass of effortlessness

Review by Jo Hodgson 24th Jan 2021

If you are looking for a night of nostalgia, musical enrichment and exceptional entertainment, then look no further than The Look of Love: a show celebrating the music of Burt Bacharach performed by the inimitable Ali Harper with Tom McLeod on piano and guitarist Callum Allardice.

Burt Bacharach is a household name who has influenced the musical landscape from the 1950s onwards – and at the age of 91, he is still performing and writing.

With musical arranger Tom Rainey’s sumptuous orchestral arrangements to put us in the right mood, Ali takes us on a journey; a journey back to a simpler time when a young American boy practised piano and discovered the joy of Jazz through the influence of Dizzy Gillispie, Count Basie and Charlie Parker.

Over his writing career, often teaming up with lyricist Hal David, he wrote for such powerhouses as Marlene Dietrich, Dionne Warwick, Dusty Springfield, Perry Como, The Carpenters, Aretha Franklyn, Cilla Black and Tom Jones. Even if you don’t think you know a Burt Bacharach song, invariably you will discover you do as soon as you hear them, such is the timelessness of this music and how many times they have been covered by a myriad of performers.

On an elegant stage setting, we are enlightened and inspired by Ali’s charismatic performance which has us eating out of her hand. She wins us over with her down to earth storytelling which is skillfully woven together and paced and pitched perfectly between entertaining us and delivering contextual information. Her voice flows in and out of the different song styles like syrup, and she is in absolute control of every note, breath and emotional nuance throughout.

The warm and easy-going relationship on stage between Tom, Ali and Callum makes us feel like we have been invited into their lounge for a soiree. They sensitively support Ali and effortlessly manoeuvre around Bacharach’s exciting chord progressions, modulations and changes of meter. It is a joy to see Tom back on his piano stool in a live show again and he shifts to the singing spotlight with ease to croon Story of my Life’, while also joining in with delivering interesting anecdotes about Bacharach’s life and musical prowess.

The orchestrations surrounding the performance enhance the emotional power and stylistic authenticity of the music. Given that Ali recorded her ‘The Look of Love’ CD with these musician’s, she has a relationship with them all and includes them as if they are all there on the stage with her, rather than a faceless backing track. A very minor quibble is I wished the mix allowed Tom and Callum’s instrumental sound to be just a little more forward at times, to bring more focus to their sound in the room.

Whether it is a sassy salsa, being humorously silly and over the top, a sultry torch song or a poignant ballad, Ali takes us into the heart of all of these hit songs. With songs such as ‘Do You Know the Way to San Jose’, ‘The Look of Love’, ‘Always Something There to Remind Me’ through to ‘What’s New Pussy Cat’, ‘Magic Moments’, ‘Walk On By’ and ‘Alfie’, we are treated to Ali’s ability to paint the songs with so many vocal colours from brassy twang, rich chest warmth, husky sensuality to the emotional and judicial use of breath.

Her performance is a vocal and dramatic masterclass of effortlessness which has been developed through years of honed practice and exploration. As a singer, I love observing how other singers traverse technically through a performance like this and am equally awed and inspired by the craft on display tonight.

Ali is a darling of the New Zealand performance scene and makes her mark wherever she goes. Her knack for delivering at such an exceptional level of performance to breaking out into good ol’ Kiwi as if she is having a cuppa with us at the kitchen bench endears her to us all.

The overriding message from ‘The Look of Love’ is clear: music is unifying, and right now more than ever, what the world needs now, is love sweet love.


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Genuine charm and vocal prowess

Review by Tony Ryan 19th Dec 2020

This isn’t the first time I’ve seen Ali Harper in a one-woman show, but this time she’s written the script herself. If the novel and dramatic originality of Joanna Murray Smith’s Songs for Nobodies three-and-a-half years ago at Court Theatre, with a director who shaped the show into a fluid and structured entity was more polished, the more personal and less formal approach of The Look of Love, at The Piano, works equally well in its own way.

The Look of Love takes a selection of hits from the 1950s, 60s and 70s written by Burt Bacharach, along with some background to his life, and presents them in an intimate cabaret style that keeps us fully engaged throughout its unbroken ninety-minute duration. 

If we didn’t already know that Burt Bacharach and his lyricist Hal David were behind many of the hits of Gene Pitney, The Carpenters, Dusty Springfield, Tom Jones, Dionne Warwick, Sandie Shaw, Cilla Black and many others, we might have been surprised by the string of familiar songs that make up this show. But, for me, the name ‘Burt Bacharach’ remains part of the flavour of my teenage years and beyond. The number of those little seven-inch 45rpm singles whose orange (Gene Pitney), purple (Sandie Shaw) and many other coloured labels featured his name and found their way into my treasured collection of recorded music, will always be a nostalgic resonance of those times.

This evening’s audience is clearly of the same mind and, if they’re also predominantly of the same generation, it’s amazing how these songs are familiar and beloved of many younger people as well.

Ali Harper and her musical director, Tom Rainey, consistently demonstrate their deep and personal love of these songs. Both performers convey the musical and expressive essence of every song so completely that memories of the original performances are enhanced. In the past, when singers have attempted to emulate familiar hit recordings, I’ve sometimes found that comparisons can result in a wish for more authenticity, but here, singer and musicians bring the material newly to life with their own considerable musical intuitions and personalities. Tom Rainey’s arrangements retain enough of the original details of instrumentation, while bringing his own insights, extending our perceptions and enabling us to find something new, no matter how deeply engrained our familiarity.

Tonight, guitarist Harry Harrison adds subtle colours to many of the songs, and his ukulele introduction to ‘Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head’ is one of many heart-in-throat moments as we realise which song is about to emerge.

Towards the start of the show, a reference to Bacharach’s early studies in classical piano and composition (much more important to him than Harper’s script would have us believe) made me wonder, as I’ve wondered ever since first encountering ‘What Do You Get When You Fall In Love’ in the late 1960s, if its similarity to the opening of the final movement of Beethoven’s ‘Piano Sonata no. 25 (Op. 79 in G)’ [begins @ 6’25”] is a deliberate borrowing on the song-writer’s part. I suppose we all get our creative inspirations from somewhere!

The conversational style of Ali Harper’s script leaves room for the inspiration of the moment, and the informative contributions from Tom Rainey at the piano, along with interchanges among all three performers, make us feel that we are sharing the magic moments of discovery alongside the musicians as they explore each song. Harper’s way of talking directly to the audience also has a genuineness, as if we’re all friends in her studio listening to her enthuse about the music.

The simple stage setting with suggestive lighting and faultless technical support, along with twenty-or-so pre-recorded backing singers and musicians, all contribute to the engaging and professional presentation, but it’s primarily Harper’s charm and vocal prowess on which the real success of The Look of Love relies.

Burt Bacharach wrote so many familiar hit songs that it’s impossible to mention even just those that feature in the show but, for me, the highlight comes near the end when we hear a sequence of excerpts from three favourites – ‘I Just Don’t Know What To Do With Myself’ (Dusty Springfield), ‘Anyone Who Had A Heart’ (Cilla Black) and ‘Always Something There To Remind Me’ (Sandie Shaw).

These, followed by ‘Alfie’ (Cilla again, and arguably Bacharach’s greatest song), and a couple more songs about love, bring the show to a close after which the enthusiastic, near-capacity audience must have wandered out into the night, filling the streets of Christchurch with their own hummed, muttered or even out-loud renditions of these timeless classics.


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Songs and stories delivered with dexterity and ebullience

Review by Gail Tresidder 15th Mar 2020

Whatever her subject, Ali Harper adds warmth to their story – her charisma and sweetness is enfolding.  This is a lovely thing and perhaps the reason, above all else, that her fans come out on a Nelson night following increasingly ominous world news.  So here we are, together with Tom Rainey on keyboard and Harry Harrison on guitar, being close to others to celebrate the wonderfully romantic music of Burt Bacharach – and, by default, his marvellous lyricist Hal David. 

The stage looks good.  Glittering hanging lights with a backdrop of streamers, changing colour to suit the mood, is simple and effective.  Otherwise, just a few props, nothing extraneous, just right.

Harper is in black – a moveable gown that shimmers and shines; Rainey and Harrison also in black.  The music is the thing – and the tales of a young Bacharach growing up in New York: his influences from the jazz scene and the many composers living there at the time; how he met Hal David – this marvellous match of words and music – and the early years. Then a giant leap to ‘I Say A Little Prayer For You’, ‘The Look Of Love’ and ‘Walk On By’. Songs with heart, songs that will last, songs that bring back memories, both happy and sad.

Touring days – especially with Marlene Dietrich in Israel, having the courage to sing in German when it was at that stage a banned language: genuinely fascinating – and for such a romantic writer as Bacharach, a less than idyllic catalogue of failed marriages.  Many songs, many stories, all delivered with a dexterity, an ebullience that is captivating.

We have a tender interpretation of Cilla Black’s great hit ‘Alfie’, a wonderful version of Dietrich’s ‘Falling In Love Again’, Harrison plays his ukulele, sings ‘Magic Moments’, accompanied by whistles from Rainey and Harper, a lot of fun bringing back the 50s.  More fun with ‘Do You Know The Way To San Jose?’ – cue the backing chorus – and on go the auditorium lights; true to character, a little bit of audience participation with ‘This Girl’s In Love With You’.

Still composing, still conducting, still playing the piano and happily married to his fourth wife for twenty-seven years, Burt Bacharach, now 91, has – more than just about any other composer of his genre – written music to fall in love to. 

In a fitting finale, we sing ‘What The World Needs Now Is Love Sweet Love’ – so right for these times: an anthem to banish the elephant in the room.  This is opening night and hopefully, The Look of Love tour will be able to proceed. 


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