Hethersett Players’ production of the musical They’re Playing our Song proved to be the perfect choice for an ambitious group.
With music by Marvin Hamlisch, lyrics by Carole Bayer Sager and script by Neil Simon, it was always going to be a highly ambitious project for the Hethersett group.
The fact that they pulled it off to considerable effect was a triumph for all those involved.
The musical play ran for over 1,000 performances on Broadway and for almost two years in London’s West End, proving its first class pedigree. Somehow within the relative confines of Hethersett Village Hall and over two nights, the Players managed to make it their own.
There is no doubt that it is a difficult piece to perform on a small budget with virtually the entire show hanging on two main characters – Vernon Gersch and Sonia Walsh. There is support from Vernon’s and Sonia’s “inner voices” in the form of three boys and three girls but these are largely incidental to the plot, albeit at times an interesting distraction.
The storyline mirrors the funny but at times tempestuous relationship between established composer Vernon and aspiring female lyricist Sonia. It is a thinly disguised portrayal of the real life relationship between Hamlisch and Sager.
The relationship progresses via numerous twists and turns, moving from apartment to club, beach house to hospital. There are no show-stopping musical numbers with the songs being more low key and thought-provoking, but if anything this adds rather than detracts from the plot.
For a small drama group to produce a top class performance in such an adventurous undertaking is nothing short of a minor triumph. Gareth Evans as Vernon and Vicki Gale as Sonia both find their talents stretched to the limits by the witty repartee and the need for spot on timing. They both coped admirably to provide a hugely believable relationship right down to the New York accents.
With such a difficult project there was obviously as much going on behind the scenes as on the stage under the direction of Sarah Wright, who is well known for her work with the Hethersett Pantomime Group, and choreographer Kate Rowe.
The orchestra, under the direction of local GP Tony Press, also had to be note perfect in a piece that is all about timing. As already stated there were cameo roles from Amy Ceunca, Emma Jermy and Rebecca Molloy as the girls and Joe Larkowsky, Matt Molloy and David Reynolds as the boys.
Overall They’re playing our Song calls for bitter-sweet performances and that’s exactly what the audience were given. It was so good to see such a group stretching themselves to the limit rather than relying on tired old plays and farces.