If You Love Burt Bacharach’s Music, You’ll Find Ivoryton’s “Burt & Me” Charming

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Andy Christopher and Lauren Gire. Photo by Jonathan Steele

By Karen Isaacs

 Burt Bacharach with Hal Davis provided the soft rock sound track of the ‘60s and ’70 with a string of pop hits introduced by The Carpenters, Dionne Warwick, Perry Como and just about everyone else.

Almost anyone who grew up in the period can hum some of his most well-known songs – “Do You Know the Way to San Jose,” “This Guy’s in Love with You,” “The Look of Love,” and “Always Something There to Remind You.” They were the “earworms” of the age – those melodies that you could love or hate but you couldn’t get them out of your head.

Burt and Me, the musical at Ivoryton Playhouse through Sunday, April 7 uses the Bacharach/David library to tell the life story of Joe who develops a passion for the Bacharach music.

This is a sweet show and as jukebox musicals go – those that use a composer or performers body of work to tell a story – it is an enjoyable evening’s entertainment, particularly if you are a fan of Burt Bacharach.

The story is simple – we meet Joe as a teenager who hates to study piano until he meets a new piano teacher who introduces him to Bacharach’s music. From then on he practices constantly and is a huge fan. We go from the awkward high school years when he develops a crush on Lacey through college and beyond.

The story is predictable. Teen boys and girls are incredibly awkward dealing with each other but just as Lacey and he are on firm footing, graduation arrives and the separation caused by college leads to the relationship’s demise. Or at least a temporary demise because, after all, this is a musical and we must have a happy ending. It does end happily, all thanks to Burt Bacharach.

The story is told by Joe who has the usual stereotypical best friend, Jerry who thinks he is very suave (he isn’t) and is often unintentionally awkward and humorous. Josh Powell is terrific in the role, plus he has a good baritone voice. Lacey’s best friend, Sally is also a stereotype – a bit funny, resisting Jerry’s advance until she, of course, succumbs.  Adrianne Hick gives Sally a knowing look and a humorous approach to life. It’s a winning performance.

Neal Mayer plays Joe’s widowed father, Alex as well as the priest who teaches the glee club at the catholic high school that they all attend. It’s how Joe and Lacey really get together.

The success of a show like this depends on the cast.  Ivortyon’s Artistic Director Jacqueline Hubbard and director Brian Feehan have done a terrific job casting the show.  Andy Christopher who plays Joe manages to be believable as a gawky 15-year-old and as an adult. He projects charm and that sense of insecurity/lack of confidence that makes the character winning. He must carry much of the show and he does effectively.

Lauren Gire is equally good as the sweet girl, Lacey. If the character has less depth, she still projects more than just sweetness and light; in addition, she has a lovely soprano voice.

The cast also includes Katie Luke as Rebecca and Nathan Richardson as Nick, but their roles are never clearly defined. She is apparently a friend of Lacey’s and he of Joe, but their roles on stage seem to be to serve as additional voices.

Feehan has directed and choreographed the show effectively, even if there are few dance numbers. Many of the numbers rely on lovely harmonies and the voices blend beautifully.

Larry McKenna, who wrote the book for this show, has done a good job using the songs effectively. They actually seem to fit the situations and move the action forward or at least underline the emotions of the characters.

If you remember those Barharach-David songs, you will enjoy Burt & Me. For tickets, visit Ivoyton Playhouse or call 860-767-7318.

This content is courtesy of Shore Publications and zip06.com

 

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