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Neil Simon's “They’re Playing Our Song”: Relevant and Embraceable at 40

by Rita Kohn
January 7, 2019
Beef & Boards Dinner Theatre
9301 N. Michigan Road
Indianapolis, IN 46268
317-872-9664
Rita Kohn, member: Dance Critics Association, Authors Guild, Dramatists Guild
Indianapolis' Beef & Boards Dinner Theatre places its distinctive touch on the pulse of “They're Playing Our Song,” book by Neil Simon, lyrics by Carole Bayer Sager and music by Marvin Hamlisch.

B & B’s run from Jan. 4-Feb. 3, precedes the musical’s 40th anniversary reunion concert on Feb. 11, 2019, at the Music Box Theatre in New York City, to benefit The Actors Fund. Lucie Arnaz will reprise her Broadway debut role opposite Robert Klein, best known in 1979 for his stand-up comedy and HBO roles on TV.

Beef & Boards regulars Sarah Hund, as songwriter Sonia Walsk, and David Schmittou, as composer Vernon Gersch, team up to star in a show that gives sparkling moments to Lauren Morgan, Annalee Traeger, Doug King and Peter Scharbrough. The role of these four supporting actors is a sterling example of Neil Simon’s incredible skills to get inside our heads and make us laugh at how we function when we’re trying to hide that intimate reality.

In a story loosely based on the real-life, brief relationship of Hamlisch and Bayer Sager, it’s a contest between wisecracks and eccentricities, composing and creating lyrics, and trying to find the balance between work and personal life, and who we are alone and with a significant, or insignificant, other. What makes a relationship work? Shakespeare easily comes to mind for positing, and we’ve been trying to figure it out for centuries since.

Simon’s running gags, bolstered by sharp repartee ratchet up the momentum; significantly Hamlisch and Bayer Sager bring forward their emotional memory to balance the comedy with the kind of depth that allows us to connect with a story that can be universally personal.

Despite a successful three-run Broadway run, followed by multiple productions worldwide, “They’re Playing Our Song” never hit the highs elicited by the teams’ other works independently created. March 2018, Chicago-based Torchlight Music Theatre staged “…Song” in their "Porchlight Revisits" season bringing forward “forgotten musicals.”

Well, a jaunty resurrection can be at hand based on the upbeat B & B production that takes another look at the disclaimer, “there are no big production numbers,” and delights with some edgy dancing by the full company, thanks to Doug King’s staging. Michael Layton’s scenic design is functional and memorable. He created a disco club worthy of installation in a real life night spot, and let’s face it, a left over wardrobe from film sets is mighty fetching, and a great idea for the growing Indiana film industry. Let the creativity roll. Thank you Jill Kelly Howe.

Directed by Jeff Stockberger, this take on “…Song” is a tad less manic than the Broadway original, paced to a Hoosier sensibility, but nonetheless rapid-fire in the give and take between two highly creative people who mask insecurities with bravado. Be assured, the humanity underlying the quest for success is what you’ll feel and carry home. I know I need to listen to the nine songs again and again to fully grasp the intensity of meanings and layerings of innuendo. The lyrics and music are very, very sophisticated, in the same class as Cole Porter.

Adding to the breadth and depth is the fine orchestra: Debbie Myers, conductor/keyboard; Kristy Templet, keyboard; Dorothy McDonald, woodwinds; Dan Golando, trumpet; Cameron Bailey, percussion; Chris Tucker, guitar.

Beef & Boards Dinner Theatre, 9301 Michigan Road, Indianapolis IN 46268

Tickets at 317-872-9664; tickets range from $45 to $70 and include Chef Odell Ward’s dinner buffet, always matched to the show’s theme.

Next: “Grease” opens Feb. 7, 2019 and runs through March 31.
Listening their new love song, Vernon (David Schmittou) and Sonia (Sarah Hund) urge everyone to “Shh, shh, shh” in Beef & Boards Dinner Theatre’s production of They’re Playing Our Song. On stage through Feb. 3, the Neil Simon and Marvin Hamlisch romantic musical comedy opens Beef & Boards’ 46th Season.

Listening their new love song, Vernon (David Schmittou) and Sonia (Sarah Hund) urge everyone to “Shh, shh, shh” in Beef & Boards Dinner Theatre’s production of They’re Playing Our Song. On stage through Feb. 3, the Neil Simon and Marvin Hamlisch romantic musical comedy opens Beef & Boards’ 46th Season.

Photo © & courtesy of Patricia Rettig


Sonia (Sarah Hund), left, receives guidance and motivation from her voices (Lauren Morgan and AnnaLee Traeger) in Beef & Boards Dinner Theatre’s production of They’re Playing Our Song. On stage through Feb. 3, the Neil Simon and Marvin Hamlisch romantic musical comedy opens Beef & Boards’ 46th Season.

Sonia (Sarah Hund), left, receives guidance and motivation from her voices (Lauren Morgan and AnnaLee Traeger) in Beef & Boards Dinner Theatre’s production of They’re Playing Our Song. On stage through Feb. 3, the Neil Simon and Marvin Hamlisch romantic musical comedy opens Beef & Boards’ 46th Season.

Photo © & courtesy of Patricia Rettig


Vernon (David Schmittou), center, finds support from his inner voices (Doug King and Peter Scharbrough) in Beef & Boards Dinner Theatre’s production of They’re Playing Our Song. On stage through Feb. 3, the Neil Simon and Marvin Hamlisch romantic musical comedy opens Beef & Boards’ 46th Season.

Vernon (David Schmittou), center, finds support from his inner voices (Doug King and Peter Scharbrough) in Beef & Boards Dinner Theatre’s production of They’re Playing Our Song. On stage through Feb. 3, the Neil Simon and Marvin Hamlisch romantic musical comedy opens Beef & Boards’ 46th Season.

Photo © & courtesy of Patricia Rettig


David Schmittou and Sarah Hund play Vernon and Sonia, a composer and quirky lyricist, in Beef & Boards Dinner Theatre’s production of They’re Playing Our Song. On stage through Feb. 3, the Neil Simon and Marvin Hamlisch romantic musical comedy opens Beef & Boards’ 46th Season.

David Schmittou and Sarah Hund play Vernon and Sonia, a composer and quirky lyricist, in Beef & Boards Dinner Theatre’s production of They’re Playing Our Song. On stage through Feb. 3, the Neil Simon and Marvin Hamlisch romantic musical comedy opens Beef & Boards’ 46th Season.

Photo © & courtesy of Patricia Rettig

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