Musical by with book by Neil Simon, lyrics by Carole Bayer Sager and music by Marvin Hamlisch. 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.
Vernon Gersch, a neurotic and successful composer with a host of awards, is paired up with the lovably eccentric Sonia Walsk - a young lyricist who is a hopeless time-keeper and dresses in cast off theatre costumes. The unlikely pairing seems destined to falter off key; can Vernon's egotistical bachelor lifestyle cope with Sonia's ex-boyfriend and her multiple personalities? As their working relationship grows, so do their feelings for each other, to make sweet music all they have to do is work in harmony...
They're Playing Our Song is a semi autobiographical story written by Neil Simon based on the relationship between composer Marvin Hamlisch and lyricist Carole Bayer Sager, whose music and words feature in this musical.
Original London West End Production 1980
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
The original cast featured Tom Conti as 'Vernon Gersch' and Gemma Craven as 'Sonia Walsk', with Thom Booker, Philip Day, Mark Jefferis, Dawn Hope, Beverley Kay, and Deena Payne.
The role of 'Vernon Gersch' was played by Tom Conti from Saturday 20 September 1980 to Saturday 18 July 1981; by Martin Shaw from Monday 27 July 1981 to Thursday 11 March 1982; with Tom Conti returning from Friday 12 March 1982 through to the end of the run on Saturday 8 May 1982 (excluding holiday dates).
The role of 'Sonia Walsk' was played by Gemma Craven from Saturday 20 September 1980 to Saturday 19 December 1981; and by Shelia Brand from Monday 21 December 1981 through to the end of the run on Saturday 8 May 1982 (excluding holiday dates).
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.
"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... 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." 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 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... 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
London Revival 2008 Menier Chocolate Factory Theatre
Previewed 25 July 2008, Opened 4 August 2008, Closed 28 September 2008 at the Menier Chocolate Factory Theatre.
The cast featured Alistair McGowan as 'Vernon Gersch' and Connie Fisher as 'Sonia Walsk', with Matthew Cole, Eugene McCoy, Christopher Ragland, Tricia Adele-Turner, Lyndsey Gardiner, and Kaisa Hammarlund.
Directed by Fiona Laird, with choreography by Sam Spencer-Lane, designs by Matthew Wright, lighting by Ian Scott, and sound by David Ogilvy.
Alistair McGowan's London theatre credits include the roles of 'Emcee, Master of Ceremonies' in Rufus Norris' revival of the John Kander and Fred Ebb musical Cabaret at the Lyric Theatre in 2008; 'The Mikado' in Peter Mulloy's revival of the Gilbert and Sullivan operetta The Mikado at the Gielgud Theatre in 2008; and 'Orin Scrivello, The Dentist' in Matthew White's revival of the Alan Menken and Howard Ashman musical Little Shop of Horrors at the Duke of York's Theatre in 2007.
Connie Fisher won the BBC reality talent show How Do You Solve A Problem Like Maria? and went on to play the role of 'Maria' in Jeremy Sams' revival of the Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein musical The Sound of Music at the London Palladium in 2006.
"The appeal resides entirely in the quality of the so-so gags and the lukewarm songs... Connie Fisher sings very prettily, while Alistair McGowan does a passable impersonation of a self-regarding musician. They lack chemistry as a couple, though: contemplating their first night of passion together, they sing the song Right and generate as much sexual heat as the average Sesame Street duet. Their wisecracking also lacks crackle. The design, meanwhile, is pure 1970s kitsch - big wigs, trippy fabrics, a giant vinyl disc for a floor. It's amusing but the decision to send the whole thing up so blatantly suggests a lack of faith in the material. And if they don't believe in it, why should we?" The London Metro
"Directed by Fiona Laird, the story concerns the real-life relationship of Marvin Hamlisch and Carole Bayer Sager and the turbulent nature of their creative and romantic rapport... Of course, all ends happily ever after, romantically speaking for these two self-proclaimed neurotics, but the fundamental flaw is the music itself. We are expected to believe that we are witnessing the creative fireworks of two great popular music figures of the 20th century but what we hear is an extended dose of overindulgent, limp love songs that all strike the same monotonous 'I'm not afraid of my emotions any more' note. Yet as a period piece it does capture its time well, if a little too faintly." The Financial Times
"This musical, staged at the admirable fringe venue of the Menier Chocolate Factory, is an easy enough watch. It doesn't take itself too seriously and there are some fabulously OTT wigs from the era of Jimmy Carter's America. It says a lot for Connie Fisher that she willingly subjects herself to a huge orange hairdo in the first half, which gives her face the length of a baby giraffe... In the second half, happily, she is allowed to sport a more flattering wig closer to her natural gamine look... Miss Fisher's love interest is played by Alistair McGowan, who is trying to broaden his name beyond that of 'TV impressionist'. His straight-up singing voice is well matched to Miss Fisher's, but they both struggle with the Noo Yawk accents required by the roles." The Daily Mail
They're Playing Our Song in London at the Menier Chocolate Factory Theatre previewed from 25 July 2008, opened on 4 August 2008 and closed on 28 September 2008