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They're Playing Our Song (Hornchurch, Queen's Theatre)

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
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Opposites, they say, attract. Take (for example) one classically-trained and slightly up-tight musician from an educated New York Jewish family. Then pair him with a kooky kitten of a lyricist with a Bohemian lifestyle and a dress sense to match (charity shop purchases and wardrobe left-overs from failed touring productions her speciality). You might say that their respective agents would have a lot to be responsible for.

Except, of course, that these two are Marvin Hamlisch and Carole Bayer Sager – Vernon Gersch and Sonia Walsk as they become in Neil Simon's version of the real-life story. Set and costume designer Nancy Surman and lighting designer Mark Dymock do director Matt Devitt proud in this new staging of They're Playing Our Song; Sonia's cocktail dress, feathered with more marabout than Ginger Rogers is as effective as the swirling swoops of lights.

Both the leads are good. Sarah Mahony makes you believe in Sonia's attempts to control a life which is rapidly escaping her control and that she really can write good verse – making the creative process credible on stage and in films is notoriously tricky. Dan de Cru plays the piano with panache and is both funny and likeable as Vernon. These two are backed by musical director Greg Last and Barbara Hockaday as their alter egos.

Mahony makes much of her "Just for tonight" and "I still believe in love" numbers and the title song, which makes the finale reprise, measures up to the first collaboration "Workin' it out". Of course, that's just what these two people do. There's some witty choreography devised by Donna Berlin but it's a pity that the stage management is so much in evidence for the scene-location changes – that leaves the audience too much time to recognise the superficiality under the decoration.


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