reviewed by Ken Klingenmeier

First of all: Happy New Year to all you ASOTA readers. I hope you have the best year possible!

Mrs K and I kicked off our 2019 theatre year with a Beef and Boards Sunday matinee presentation of Neil Simon’s They’re Playing Our Song – with words and music by Carole Bayer Sager and Marvin Hamlisch, respectively. Loosely based on the real life Sager/Hamlisch relationship, the 1979 Broadway musical relates the story of composer Vernon Gersch and lyricist Sonia Walsk as they join forces to collaborate on a set of songs, fall in love, find their way out of it, and resolve their differences in the end.

Vernon (David Schmittou) and Sonia (Sarah Hund) in a scene from B&B’s production of “They’re Playing Our Song”

B&B favorites David Schmittou and Sarah Hund likewise join forces in the lead roles. Schmittou is sharp as the composer, balancing the comic and songster aspects of the role with aplomb. Ms. Hund is an energetic Walsk, hitting all the right buttons for the lyricist’s erratic and lively personality. Add in her absolutely true and lovely vocal gifts, and she gives us an uplifting performance to witness and enjoy.

To aid the lead characters, Simon has invented their alter egos for inclusion. The four roles are taken by B&B veterans Doug King (who doubles as choreographer for the show), Peter Scharbrough, Lauren Morgan and AnnaLee Traeger. The foursome provides background for several scenes, sometimes dancing, often singing, and although there are really none of what I would call “production numbers” in the show, their talented presence livens the production, none the less.

from left: Sarah Hund, Lauren Morgan and AnnaLee Traeger as Sonia (left) and her alter egos in a scene from B&B’s production of “They’re Playing Our Song”

The script itself seems to be a twist on the “odd couple” circumstance, with unsuited characters finding reasons to come together, be thrown apart and realign in the finale. Though Simon’s laugh lines are true to his pedigree, the premise and the movement through the play’s time-frame left gaps for me and my perspective. In the end, having it be presented as a musical filled many of the emotional gaps.

Jeff Stockberger directs, and has a natural affinity for the quickly paced jokes and bits the play offers; Michael Layton provides the very adaptable set design; and musical director Debbie Myers does a wonderful job – along with her talented band of musicians.

from left: Doug King, David Schmittou and Peter Scharbrough as Vernon (center) and his alter egos in a scene from B&B’s production of “They’re Playing Our Song”

Chef Odell Ward comes through with a fine buffet menu including baked chicken, beef stroganoff, and the usual salad items and carved roast beef. However, I missed the fried shrimp, and the brussels sprouts in cream sauce – which were listed on the table menu, but did not appear for some reason.

Bottomline: Although this is not one of my favorite Simon scripts, the enjoyment of having David Schmittou and Sarah Hund back before my eyes more than made up for it. They are true stage professionals and their talents are impressive enough to carry the day.

They’re Playing Our Song continues at Beef and Boards Dinner Theatre through February 3rd. Show times and reservations can be viewed at http://www.beefandboards.com or you may call the box office at  317-872-9664.

  • – Photos by Julie Curry
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