By the middle of the two-act play, I was overlooking the faulty interpretations - which worked only with the minor characters, drawn by McKenna more in caricature. At least the facile narrative arc of Burt & Me was carrying the show through.
But the singing - especially from the show's three guys - got in the way. If you're going to do a show ripe with the tuneful, smart songs of Bacharach and David - "I'll Never Fall in Love Again," "I Say a Little Prayer for You," "The Look of Love," to name just a few - you have to bring off the music.
The offstage four-piece band does, the two women in the show (Anabelle Garcia as the good Catholic girl, Jordi Wallen as her pal) do. The guys generally do not, or maybe cannot. When they sang together Thursday night they were often three men in search of a key.
Tall, lanky Zack Jackson, as the boy who drives this show, is endearing despite his overeager delivery, but he is frequently just this side of a note. When Michael Hogan, as his buddy, and Dave Scheffler, in different roles, join him, they are often on opposite sides of that note. What we get - especially in the first act - is Burt & Me: The Karaoke Version.
Bud Martin, the head of Act II Playhouse as well as a producer on Broadway and London's West End, took a cameo role Thursday, when I saw the show. Martin, who encouraged his friend McKenna to write Burt & Me, played the incidental part of a piano player (he squeezed the role nicely), a treat for an audience packed with late-1960s Cardinal O'Hara High School grads including Martin and McKenna, who drew on his experience there for the script.
As good as that script has become, it can't work without solid musical performance. From time to time we saw flashes of that, particularly when the women were on board. For much of the show, though, there was always something there to remind me.
Burt & Me
Through Sept. 18 at Society Hill Playhouse, 507 S. Eighth St. Tickets: $38.
Information: 215-923-0210 or www.societyhillplayhouse.org.
Contact staff writer Howard Shapiro at 215-854-5727, email@example.com, or #philastage on Twitter.