This charming little musical, written by Neil Simon and purportedly based on the real-life relationship of composer, Marvin Hamlish and lyricist, Carole Bayer Sager, scored a huge success in Australia in the 1980’s when Jackie Weaver and John Waters toured endlessly in the original, rather more lavish, Australian production.
Fond memories of this production first seen when Rhonda Burchmore was among the back-up singers, and later, when it played in the Canberra Playhouse, with Donna Lee among the back-up singers, and another later production starring Peta Toppano and Barry Quin, which also played the Canberra Theatre Centre.
And yet another production, sans backing singers, at the Ensemble Theatre in Sydney starring Simon Burke and Georgie Parker, were revived by this elegant little touring production now playing in the Q in Queanbeyan, also minus the backing singers.
Terence O’Connell, who both designed and directed this production, has wisely elected to keep his show firmly grounded in the 1970’s when telephones and Dictaphones were the norm, men wore flairs and women tottered dangerously in sky-scraper high platform shoes.
The show follows the travails of wise-cracking composer, Vernon Gersch (Scott Irwin) and offbeat lyricist, Sonia Walsk (Teagan Wouters) as they gingerly negotiate a relationship, both business and personal. There is a third person in this relationship, Sonia’s ex-boyfriend, Leon, who we never get to meet, but who is hilariously omnipresent throughout the show.
O’Connell’s uncluttered setting and finely detailed direction serve the production well. Scott Irwin is a delightfully dorky Vernon Gersch. The songs suit his excellent baritone, and Neil Simons’ rather dated but still chuckle-a-minute dialogue allows him plenty of opportunity to display his finely honed comedic timing.
Teagan Wouters is deliciously ditsy as Sonia Walsk, the lyricist with a penchant for wearing theatre wardrobe left-overs, and plagued with an over-developed maternal instinct. Together they manage Neil Simons’ script with flair and negotiate some potentially cheesy moments with panache, developing a convincing onstage relationship which is both charming and entertaining.
Musical Director, Alistair Smith, seated inconspicuously at a baby grand piano upstage, and employing some judicious over-dubs in lieu of the aforementioned backing singers, provided the musical accompaniments, which on opening night occasionally threatened to overwhelm the singers.
Director and Designer: Terence O’Connell Musical Director: Alistair Smith Book: Neil Simon Music: Marvin Hamlish Lyrics: Carole Bayer Sager
They’re Playing Our Song
Queanbeyan Performing Arts Centre, 25 Crawford Street, Queanbeyan
Performance: Friday 28 March 2014 – 8.00pm
Season: 28 March – 5 April 2014
Image: courtesy of Hit Productions
Review: Bill Stephens