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 actors playing Ben and Molly 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.
Some Lovers runs through Dec. 31. $35 and up.
Jacob Marley's Christmas Carol: This Oceanside Theatre Company production suggests “Never mind Scrooge. What about Marley?” Opens Dec. 15 at Sunshine Brooks Theatre in Oceanside. 12-$18. oceansidetheatre.org
A Christmas Carol: Dickens' classic Christmas tale is dramatized inside the “haunted” confines of the Whaley House. Dec. 14 at the Whaley House in Old Town. $8. whaleyhouse.org
Late Nite Catechism: Audience members find themselves in a Catholic nun's class in this one-woman comedy that will celebrate its 20th-anniversary year in 2012. The last performance is Friday, Dec. 16, at Welk Resort Theatre in Escondido. $10-$30. welktheatersandiego.com
Greetings!: Catholic boy, Jewish girl, Christmas Eve meeting with the parents. A comedy by Tom Dudzick. Through Dec. 17 at the Epicentre in Mira Mesa. $15. miramesatheatreguild.org
Leato be Latina: Ethnic and sexual labeling collide with raucous hijinks in this play by Enrique Urueta. The goings run into trouble when a hand puppet gets too many lines and the play takes on the feel of an overlong Saturday Night Live sketch. Through Dec. 18 at Diversionary Theatre in University Heights. $20-$33. diversionary.org
You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown: The “Peanuts” characters come alive in the Broadway revival version of a musical by Clark Gesner based on Charles Schulz's gang. Through Dec. 17 at Scripps Ranch Theatre. $10-$25. scrippsranchtheatre.org
Annie: “Tomorrow, tomorrow, I love ya….“ Arf arf. You know the rest. Through Dec. 18 at the Star Theatre in Oceanside. $7-$15. startheatre.biz
Life of a Sofa: A sofa is the consistent thread in 10 vignettes, each set during Christmastime. Through Dec. 18 at Broadway Theater in Vista. $17.50. broadwayvista.com
Little Women: Peter Clapham's play is an adaptation of the well-loved novel by Louisa May Alcott. Through Dec. 18 at Patio Playhouse in Escondido. $7-$15. patioplayhouse.com
The Messiah: This play with music recounts the story of Christ's birth. Through Dec. 18 at Community Actors Theatre in Rolando. $12-$14. communityactorstheatre.com
Mistletoe, Music & Mayhem: Comedy and song, holiday-style, from five performers. Through Dec. 18 at North Coast Repertory Theatre in Solana Beach. $20-$25. northcoastrep.org
Emilia's Sugarplum Nightmare: The Three Kings encounter St. Nick in a musical comedy produced by Talent to aMuse Theatre Co. Through Dec. 22 at Liberty Hall Theatre in National City. $12-$18. talenttoamuse.com
An American Christmas: The Hotel del Coronado's ballroom is the setting for an evening of holiday music, dance, comedy and food, presented by Lamb's Players Theatre. Through Dec. 24 at Hotel del Coronado. $115-$160. lambsplayers.org
La Pastorela de Valor: The account of the shepherds' sojourn to Bethlehem for the birth of the Christ child, from Teatro Mascara Magica. Through Dec. 24 at Lyceum Theatre at Horton Plaza. $10-$15. lyceumevents.org
The Santaland Diaries: Joe Mantello reprises his adaptation of David Sedaris' essay about an elf working at Macy's during the holidays. Through Dec. 24 at New Village Arts, Carlsbad. $20. newvillagearts.org
Festival of Christmas: Lamb's Players Theatre renews an annual family-friendly holiday tradition, with music. Through Dec. 31 at Lamb's Players Theatre, Coronado. $28-$60. lambsplayers.org
Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas!: An Old Globe Theatre holiday tradition returns, directed by James Vasquez. Through Dec. 31 at the Old Globe Theatre in Balboa Park. $24-$57. oldglobe.org
It's a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play: In true holiday tradition, Cygnet Theatre presents the timeless story of George Bailey, as recounted from Studio A of WCYG Radio. Through Dec. 31 at Old Town Theatre. $29-$54. cygnettheatre.com
Jesus Christ Superstar: La Jolla Playhouse Artistic Director Emeritus Des McAnuff aims to reinvigorate the 40-year-old rock opera, and to some extent (thanks to high-tech staging and a kinetic set) he succeeds. The key players (Jesus, Judas, Mary Magdalene) could use more charisma, but the Tim Rice / Andrew Lloyd Webber songs have lost none of their beauty or ferocity. Through Dec. 31 at La Jolla Playhouse. $58 and up. lajollaplayhouse.org
Jingle Bell Rock: The Alley Cats usher in the holidays with a cappella classics and comedy. Through Dec. 31 at Welk Resort Theatre in Escondido. $48-$73. welktheatresandiego.com
Some Lovers: The story of “The Gift of the Magi” gets a retooling thanks to a musical collaboration between Burt Bacharach and Steven (Spring Awakening) Sater. Through Dec. 31 at Old Globe Theatre, Balboa Park. $35 and up. oldglobe.org
Shotgun Wedding Anniversary: How else can a miserable 25-year marriage end but in murder? Presented by Mystery Cafe, it's ongoing at Imperial House restaurant in Bankers Hill. $59.50, including dinner. mysterycafe.net