|Burt & Me|
"Burt & Me" Act II Playhouse July 6 - August 1
Taking a cue from its own storyline, the new musical comedy Burt & Me is very much the perfect romantic fling. It’s a whole lot of summer lovin’ and light-hearted fun squeezed into one whimsical act, complete with its own soundtrack.
The story follows a familiar teenage archetype: boy and girl meet, overcome awkward introductions, and fall in love, only then to go off to separate colleges and eventually break up. For most couples, the once promising glow of love usually burns out for good at this point. But for starry-eyed Joe Madson and Lacey Turner, the spark still lingers, thanks to the irresistible sounds of Burt Bacharach, who holds a special place in each character’s heart. After all, Joe learned the piano following the famed composer’s keys while Lacey sang a number of his ditties in her school’s glee club.
Written by Larry McKenna, Burt & Me melds a classic tale of teenage love with the music of the surprisingly prolific Bacharach. His songs not only provide the musical score for the couple’s budding relationship, but the lyrics, penned by Hal David, often tell the story with their lyrics. When Joe and Lacey first bashfully lay eyes on each other, “Wishin’ and Hopin’” spiritedly captures their puppy love desires. And when the pair reconnects after college, the chorus of “(They Never Long to Be) Close to You” reveals Joe’s secret hopes of rekindling their romance. The precise arrangement of pop classics nicely complements McKenna’s playful script, which blends humorous Catholic school anecdotes and engaging dialogue with a poignant rendering of an old-fashioned love story. In short, Burt & Me is a clever take on the traditional romantic comedy formula, only Hugh Grant is missing from the cast.
In the lead role, John Jarboe delivers a solid performance as the love-struck Joe, who’s far more comfortable with a basketball in his hand than an attractive female in his presence. While Jarboe belts out Bacharach tunes with ease, his talents truly emerge amidst the more heartfelt scenes, even sending a few patrons to their pocketbooks in search of Kleenex. Meanwhile, Liz Filios is absolutely spellbinding as Lacey, the object of Joe’s affection. Exuding sweetness and radiating girl-next-door charm, Filios playfully engages Jarboe one minute and enchants the audience with a beautiful melody the next.
Rounding out the cast, Paul Weagraff brings warmth and earnestness to the stage as Joe’s widowed father, Christine Petrini adds a little attitude as Lacey’s friend Sally, and Ted Wioncek III borrows a little from Will Ferrell as he loudly and often awkwardly serves up the comic relief as Jerry, Joe’s best friend.
Under the guidance of Matt Silva, the lively stage direction, bolstered by instances of inspired choreography, keeps the action moving, especially during performances of “Do You Know the Way to San Jose” and “The Look of Love.” The music, meanwhile, is a true testament to Bacharach’s legacy, and the ensemble cast, particularly Filios, carries each tune competently and at times superbly.
For most folks, summer flings have become distant memories, buried beneath some pier along the Wildwood boardwalk, occasionally dug up in a fit of nostalgia. But thanks to Burt & Me, now running at Ambler’s Act II Playhouse, those hopeless romantics out there can turn back the clock and relive such bliss in this endearing tale of young love.