What happens when you pair an uber successful composer with an eccentric up and coming lyricist who wears secondhand clothes from defunct Theater Productions? Well, not only do you get some fine music, a few laughs, and a bunch of disagreements, but you get the general premise for Neil Simon's They're Playing Our Song, a musical based on the real life relationship between Marvin Hamlisch (composer) and Carole Baker Sager (lyricist).
Peter Scarpinato and Patrice Richardson, as Vernon and Sonia respectively, take centerstage of Township Theater Group's current presentation of They're Playing Our Song, now playing through March 11 at the Helen Butler Hall at Dominican Village in Amityville, New York.
Vernon and Sonia are pretty much the epitome of opposites attract. She's always late. He's always three steps ahead of everyone. She's very open and he's pretty private. He was engaged to three different women in one year, and Sonia can't seem to get rid of her most recent boyfriend, Leon, no matter how hard she tries. (In ways, Leon is the invisible third character in this musical.) So how exactly are these two people supposed to work together?
But Scarpinato and Richardson take their connection in stride. Their chemistry is a bit shaky in the earlier scenes of They're Playing Our Song, but as the show continues on, it gets on track. And audiences will look forward to what becomes of this relationship. Is it more than a professional collaboration? Can it survive the invisible third wheel named Leon or is it doomed to become another passed opportunity in Vernon's life?
While the musical revolves around Scarpinato and Richardson, they are delightfully backed up by their own personal entourage of back-up performers. While the "girls" and "boys" provided entertainment as the "inner voices" of Sonia and Vernon and help to shift the focus from the leading couple, Sonia's Girls displayed more vocal range and efficiency when it came to the choreography.
The main weakness of They're Playing Our Song, though no fault of this company, is Neil Simon's book. The pacing drags, the characters are not well-developed enough for audience members to care all that much about them, and the dialogue never seems to come naturally. The cast works diligently to keep this almost three-hour presentation (with a 15-minute intermission) fresh but it is difficult to do so when the written words lack enthusiasm.
While They're Playing Our Song lacks big musical numbers, Scarpinato's initial performance of the title song is full of gusto and any woman could relate to the way Sonia stared at him with awe as he performed. In Act 2, Richardson delivers an emotional "I Still Believe in Love" while toy pianos cleverly punctuate a sweet "Fill in the Words." I couldn't help but wish there were more songs to balance out the constant run-around of dialogue between Sonia and Vernon. The show's pacing could have benefited from more music because in the end, it was what brought the two together.
Accompanied by a lovely three-piece band, Township Theatre's Production of They're Playing Our Song is a fine attempt to revive a show that lit up Broadway in the 1980s. Filled with fun Saturday Night Fever moves, black fringe dresses, and a love story that borders on the impossible, it is certainly worth your afternoon or evening to experience a hardworking cast and company doing what they love.
Township Theatre Group's They're Playing Our Song will be performed March 2, 3, 9 & 10 at 8:00 p.m. and March 4 & 11 at 2 p.m. at the Helen Butler Hall @ Dominican Village, 565 Albany Ave., Amityville. For more information, please visit the company's website at www.townshiptheatrecompany.com.