They’re Playing Our Song
Lyrics by Carole Bayer Sager, Music by Marvin Hamlisch
Book by Neil Simon
Directed by Janet Morris
Review by Keith Waits
Entire contents copyright © 2016 by Keith Waits. All rights reserved.
Carole Bayer Sager & Marvin Hamlisch.
In 1978, following the massive success of A Chorus Line, composer Marvin Hamlisch premiered a musical inspired by his relationship with songwriter Carole Bayer Sager. It is an easy assumption to view the material as autobiographical, but Neil Simon, who no doubt drew on his own experience with show biz marriage, wrote the book. Ultimately, the play is a slight, if funny, piece that requires a production long on charm.
Vernon Gersch (Greg Collier) is a successful songwriter who hooks up with a new lyricist partner, Sonia Walsk (Mandy Kramer). She basically drives him nuts with her eccentric behavior (her wardrobe consists of costumes she has borrowed or purloined), so, of course, they become romantically involved. Although Vernon and Sonia are the only two characters in the play, each is accompanied by their own Greek chorus of Inner Voices: Daniel Smith, John C. Collins, and Britt Roars for Vernon, Ashley Burdock Hostetter, Carrie Chastain, and Madelyn Carey for Sonia.
Janet Morris’s take on it at Little Colonel works pretty well. The music is dated, with a title song with a generic disco beat, which Morris stages with a kitschy, self-awareness that makes the clumsy music almost a virtue. Most of the other numbers are more traditional, and the ballads, such as “I Still Believe In Love,” or “Fill In The Words,” are the best part of the score. The production embraces the modest scale of the material, with a spare arrangement of the music and slightly unorthodox choices in the casting.
Greg Collier does not possess the most impressive musical theatre voice, but he can sing fairly well, and gives it his all. He delivers the Neil Simon dialogue with confidence, earning his laughs with an idiosyncratic rhythm all his own. Mandy Kramer makes Sonia a daffy femme fatale, a woman who creates chaos without an ounce of malice in her heart. He is all button-down and muted, while she is rococo and sexy.
They’re Playing Our Song is not by any means an important musical; an affable entertainment with sharp dialogue more memorable than the fairly routine songs, its success in this production is due to charming leads and clever staging. The modest sensibility includes a spare but expertly played arrangement from Music Director Kim Stover Hartz on keyboards and Donnie Arbuckle on drums.
They’re Playing Our Song
November 3, 5, 10, 11, & 12 at 7:30pm
November 6 & 13 at 2:00pm
Little Colonel Playhouse
302 Mount Mercy Drive
Pewee Valley, Kentucky 400
Keith Waits is a native of Louisville who works at Louisville Visual Art during the days, including being the host of PUBLIC on WXOX-FM 97.1/ ARTxFM.com, but spends most of his evenings indulging his taste for theatre, music and visual arts. His work has appeared in Pure Uncut Candy, TheatreLouisville, and Louisville Mojo. He is now Managing Editor for Arts-Louisville.com.