They're Playing Our Song

Previewed 20 September 1980, Opened 1 October 1980, Closed 8 May 1982 at the Shaftesbury Theatre

The Neil Simon, Marvin Hamlisch and Carole Bayer Sager musical They're Playing Our Song in London starring Tom Conti and Shelia Brand

Egotistical and mega-successful composer Vernon Gersch takes on a new lyricist, Sonia Walsk - a crazy foolish eccentric, insecure incurable romantic still bruised by a recently ended affair.

The cast features Tom Conti as 'Vernon Gersch' and Shelia Brand as 'Sonia Walsk'. Musical with book by Neil Simon, lyrics by Carole Bayer Sager and music by Marvin Hamlisch. Directed by David Taylor with choreography by Lani Sundsten, sets and projections by Douglas W. Schmidt, costumes by Ann Roth, lighting by Tharon Musser and sound by Tom Morse. The original cast starred Tom Conti as 'Vernon Gersch' from Saturday 20 September 1980 to Saturday 18 July 1981 and from Friday 12 March to Saturday 8 May 1982; and Gemma Craven as 'Sonia Walsk' from Saturday 20 September 1980 to Saturday 19 December 1981. Martin Shaw played the role of 'Vernon Gersch' from Monday 27 July 1981 to Thursday 11 March 1982 and Shelia Brand played the role of 'Sonia Walsk' from Monday 21 December 1981 to Saturday 8 May 1982. Excluding holiday dates.

"Neil Simon's musical They're Playing Our Song concerns an affair between a composer and lyricist, which at least adds a new twist to the perennial question of which comes first, the words or the music. I call it Mr Simon's musical, since the book is more important than the score. This may seem odd, given the avocations of the characters - who are reputedly based on Marvin Hamlisch and Carole Bayer Sager, the composer and lyricist of the show - but disappointingly little is made of the working relationship. Vernon Gersch and Sonia Walske might be any urban couple in a Neil Simon comedy... Just one scene breaks out; Vernon and Sonia, on their first date, hear their biggest individual hits, back to back, and go into the title number - much the strongest in the score and thence off to bed. Success is an aphrodisiac; there is a point musically and theatrically made. But otherwise the songs are just wan decoration. Mr Hamlisch's music is spineless and Miss Sager's words anonymous... Each protagonist is equipped with a trio of alter egos, mainly there to provide an excuse for a disco sound; the cues for their appearances steadily get thinner and more irritating. There are no other visible characters. The sleek original production has grown somewhat tattered in transit but Douglas W. Schmidt's sets, mainly black-and-white projections retain their sheen." The Observer

"The plot concerns the relationship of Tom Conti, a successful composer of popular songs, and a lyric writer (Gemma Craven) who has also seen some of her work in the charts. He is tense and agitated, with a tendency to use his grand piano as a barrier against the bumpy bits of life. She is forthright, eager and gushing. Neil Simon's book is wonderfully witty when the couple first meet and continue to be so when they become lovers. It is when they break up - for no particular reason as far as I could see - that the show loses its momentum, and again when they kiss and make up without a satisfactory explanation for the reconciliation. Still, these scenes are only disappointing because the rest of the enterprise is so delightful. The songs by Marvin Hamlisch and Carol Bayer Sager are melodious and sharply written and sung with verve by the two leads. Mr Conti and Miss Craven are assisted in their endeavours at times by three fellows and three girls who represent their other selves. A nice idea that enlivens the proceedings considerably... The sets are splendidly realised and Nell Simon's dialogue has never been crisper... With imaginative direction by David Taylor, and finely contrasting performances from the stars the Shaftesbury Theatre should be in business for some time to come." The Daily Express

"Gemma Craven moves into the superstar class with her high energy performance in Neil Simon's comedy of harmony and discord in the New York pop world... Her sassy, high voltage rendition of Marvin Hamlisch's title number is a rousing show stopper... Neil Simon is the master of the slick New Yorker wisecrack and he has written some brilliant lines for Miss Craven and Tom Conti to spray at each other. I've got some reservations about Conti's performance. He's a shade too relaxed and lovable in a role that could do with more acid. He plays successful composer Vernon Gersch whose well-ordered life is shattered when he teams up with aspiring lyricist Sonia Walsk. She is a whirlwind of indecision. Scatty, unpunctual, illogical an emotional Florence Nightingale trying to break off an affair with a neurotic boy called Leon. Vernon and Sonia fall in love, share a bed but their relationship is blighted by midnight calls for help from Leon a character who is never seen. Although not quite the blockbuster I had expected, They're Playing Our Song is slick, amusing entertainment." The Daily Mirror

They're Playing Our Song in London at the Shaftesbury Theatre previewed from 20 September 1980, opened on 1 October 1980 and closed on 8 May 1982