They're Playing Our SongPosted on: 02 September 2008 by Gareth Hargreaves
Connie Fisher, fresh from The Sound of Music, and Alistair McGowan entertain in this musical comedy.
That singing nun has been transformed into a perky lyric writer. I mean of course the feisty redhead Connie Fisher, who won the BBC's talent contest to star in The Sound of Music, and has now moved on into a more challenging role in the musical comedy revival They're playing Our Song at Menier Chocolate Factory.
Written in 1979 and mirroring the real life relationship between songwriter Marvin Hamlisch and lyric writer Carole Bayer Sager, the story centres on Vernon Gersch, a cynical Oscar winning songwriter who has had one too many failed love affairs, and the eccentric lyricist Sonia Walsk who turns up out of the blue on his doorstep.
However it is more than talent that catches his eye and a turbulent relationship develops between them and, despite Sonia's adhesion to her former lover, they eventually - and not unexpectedly - fall in love.
Set on a giant rotating vinyl disc, this semi-autobiographical musical has elements of narcissism and would benefit from being made tighter and sharper, perhaps by cutting twenty minutes out of its two-and-a-half hour running time, yet manages to be funny, charming and irritating by turn.
Neil Simon, on whose book the show is based, infuses the proceedings with a wry sense of humour, as when Sonia discusses her former partner, Vernon remarks, "Why don't you and I break up so we can spend more time together?"
The Hamlisch/Sager score is attractive with several fine numbers, namely Fallin', I Still Believe in Love and When You're in My Arms but the most memorable is the title number They're Playing Our Song.
Director Fiona Laird brings an imaginative touch by having various dancers enact the protagonists' alter egos that represent their multiple personalities.
Connie Fisher sings well and brings the right blend of emotional turmoil to the role of Sonia/Sager while her co-star, seasoned TV impressionist Alistair McGowan, who bears more than a passing resemblance to Marvin Hamlisch, has fine comic timing as Vernon.
Despite its drawbacks this provides a truly entertaining evening in the theatre that sends you out in a happy frame of mind!
Plays until 28th September 2008.
By Laurence Green
Box office: 020 7907 7060 or: www.menierchocolatefactory.com
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