Reviewed by Frank McKone
I thank Scott Irwin (as Vernon Gersch) and Teagan Wouters (as Sonia Walsk) for giving us a pleasantly entertaining performance of this 1979 play with songs, which surely must be one of Neil Simon’s least stageworthy efforts.
Simon’s strengths were first recognised in the previous decade (Barefoot in the Park 1963 and The Odd Couple, Tony Award 1965), and much later with his Pulitzer Prize in 1991 for Lost in Yonkers, but I fear that this association in between times with composer Hamlisch (A Chorus Line) and lyricist Sager fell into the old theatrical trap of self-indulgence. Simon was certainly playing their songs, but the resulting script is dramatically thin and entirely sentimental.
Though Simon was famous enough for the romance of their lives to run for a couple of years in New York, London and even in 1980 at the Theatre Royal in Sydney – starring John Waters and Jacki Weaver – I suspect that Hamlisch and Sager knowingly ‘used’ Simon to write the ‘book’ for their ‘musical’ as a pot-boiler.
However, in this production at least Terence O’Connell and the performers realised that putting on an overlay of comic stylisation was the best way to go for them as actors, and to concentrate on the music. We could always applaud them as singers for their musicianship.
Which reminds me that it is not clear in the program who was the excellent keyboard player behind the scrim, sometimes dimly lit. Was it Alistair Smith, named as Musical Director?
Because the songs now seem terribly dated and old-fashioned, and with so little dramatic development in the script beyond a few fairly obvious one-liner jokes (and regular name-dropping of Elton John), Wouters and Irwin had to work hard, so here are some nice pictures of them:
|Scott Irwin - Vernon Gersch in They're Playing Our Song|
|Teagan Wouters - Sonia Walsk in They're Playing Our Song|