Theatre: They're Playing Our Song

It was one of those theatrical experiences that I love. Before the second act started of They're Playing Our Song, a revival now in preview at the Menier Chocolate Factory, the man next to me apologised for blocking my view in the first act. "It's just that I am having trouble staying awake watching this truly awful show...". He did add that he loved Connie Fisher. Well... What is there not to like about Connie Fisher? She does have a star quality about her and that cruel audition on TV to win the role of Maria in The Sound of Music (which I missed) and losing all that weight during the run shows what doesn't kill you can only make you stronger. In this show she was just great as Sonia... The nice Jewish girl with the Farrah Fawcett ginger wig...

Still, I was surrounded by people who just hated this preview. The West End Whingers at intermission were ready to walk out, and I would like to take some credit for keeping everyone returning to the theatre for the second half... Even if it were on the basis of the argument that the second half had only three new songs and all the rest were reprises so the worst was behind them... Anyway amongst all this hostility from bloggers (including bloggers we just met) I didn't want to mention... That... I still kinda liked the show...

Prior to the start of the show, I was discussing with the Whingers whether we knew any of the music. We didn't except for the line "Oh they're playing our song oh yes they're playing our song". After that we didn't know any of it. It became evident why in the first act of the show why that's all we knew as the next line goes "Sh! Sh! Sh!" and who the hell would think that up as a lyric? Still it is an irritatingly catchy tune... And when the overture started it was so funky and retro I had high hopes for this show...

Alas the music, by Marvin Hamlisch and lyrics by Carole Bayer Sager is not their best work... But what makes the show tough going is a Neil Simon's book, which even for its retro interest is pretty dated. Between songs I was waiting for the dialogue to stop as I would rather Marvin Hamlisch and Carole Bayer Sager on a bad day than these poorly set up scenes of neuroses. The ongoing references to Leon, who is Sonia's ex boyfriend are incredibly excrutiating...

Still, given what they have to work with, this production breathes life into the show with crazy wigs, fantastic polos, cardigans and a great disco scene. And of course there is also Connie Fisher...

As the run continues I hope they loosen it up further and make more of the shows limitations (such as a piano doubling as a car). I was a little bit alarmed that this production builds on the new trend in London productions (started with Gone With the Wind) in having a pointless revolve, but I am hoping this too is irony. Although I was fearing ankle sprains when the cast jumped on the stage for the finale... That looked kinda scary...

There is potential for this show to be quite a fun distraction for the summer... Providing you don't think too much about things like "why is this being revived?" And if only they could get those bubbles out of the floor of revolve... It looked like a bad home improvement job... Surely even the Menier theatre-going public deserve a little bit of glitz and glamour? Now to get that "Oh they're playing our song oh yes they're playing our song..." out of my head...

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