Larry McKenna set out to write a musical based on the music of Barry Manilow. But as he got into the process, he realized he liked the music of Burt Bacharach much more.

“Burt Bacharach was my idol,” said McKenna, who is in Maine this week to oversee the run of his musical, “Burt & Me.” “He made it cool to play the piano. For the past 40 years, I’ve made my living with the piano. Thank God my parents forced me to take lessons.”

McKenna, 60, directs the light jukebox musical, which is on stage through Sunday as part of the Deertrees Theatre Festival in Harrison. He wrote the book and mixed in Bacharach’s songs to help propel the story.

It’s a straightforward, easy-to-digest evening of fun: boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy tries to win girl back with the music of Bacharach.

Songs that are part of the show include “What the World Needs Now,” “Walk on By,” “Do You Know the Way to San Jose,” “Always Something There to Remind Me,” “Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head” and others.

“Burt & Me” has had one run so far, at the Act II Playhouse outside Philadelphia, near where McKenna lives. It played for four weeks last summer and did well, earning good reviews and drawing big crowds.

The musical has the backing of a Broadway producer, who is watching the show this summer to see how it does. After the Deertrees run, it moves to the Society Hill Playhouse in Philadelphia Sept. 7-18.

If it draws well in both locations, McKenna thinks he has the chance to turn it into a hit.

“If we do this right, this will be playing at every summer theater in 2013,” he said.

McKenna is using the same cast for both productions. It features five actors and a four-person orchestra. The show runs about 90 minutes without an intermission.

McKenna was raised on a strict diet of classical music. Somewhere along the line, a music teacher introduced him to show tunes. Then he discovered the music of Bacharach, and his life changed forever.

Working in tandem with Hal David, Bacharach wrote 70 hit songs from the 1950s through the 1980s. Dionne Warwick recorded many of them, but Bacharach also produced hits for Dusty Springfield, Bobbie Gentry, Jackie DeShannon and others.

“There’s a lightness to his music that I just really appreciate,” said McKenna.

Staff Writer Bob Keyes can be contacted at 791-6457 or at:

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