The late Marvin Hamlisch along with his then wife Carole Bayer Sager and Neil Simon wrote a musical about how Sager and Hamlisch met and became a successful if unlikely songwriting duo. They named it “They’re Playing Our Song” and it opened on Broadway early in 1979 to good reviews and a long run. It last played St. Louis in the early 1980s at The American Theater starring Lucie Arnaz.
The musical is basically a two person play, but there are eight people in the cast. It seems the two prime characters each made a habit of fabricating three alter egos that they used in their imagination during the creative process.
Seth Rettberg plays Vernon Gersch, Hamlisch’s character, and he does it perfectly. He has the best laugh lines in the show and Rettberg’s timing and expressions are sometime hilarious. Maria Couch as Sager’s character was a little slow into the show on press night, but came back beautifully in second act. It’s at that point that you really begin to believe the improbable love story and start to feel an affinity for Vernon and Maria. A strange choice in this production was a hair piece Couch wore in Act I that get’s discarded in Act 2. It was not complimentary to the shape of her face and indeed made the very attractive Ms. Couch look less than her best. You don’t want to do that to your leading lady.
The set décor and the story itself are very 1980s in many respects. “They’re Playing Our Song” seems topically a little dated. But Neil Simon’s writing is always witty, and intimate little musicals like this play well in the cozy confines of The Robert G. Reim Theater.
Now if Stages would only lose that hair piece.