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They’re Playing Our Song

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Currently in its second weekend (of four), New Helvetia Theatre’s production of “They’re Playing Our Song” is another winner from the young company. Founded two years ago, NHT has received high praise for productions that have included “Hedwig and the Angry Inch,” “tick…tick…BOOM!” and “[title of show].”

“They’re Playing Our Song” should appeal to fans of both musicals and plays, as a musical that probably has more distinctive dialog than production numbers. It’s not that the songs are weak, it’s just that the rest of the material comes from the pen of Neil Simon, and so it has that tone that makes it somewhat like watching a Woody Allen movie with musical interludes.

The songs themselves are particularly interesting in the context of the show, in that they are co-written by Carole Bayer Sager (lyrics) and Marvin Hamlisch (music) who are also the inspiration for the story which is based on their 1970’s romance. In it, Vernon and Sonia are a composer and lyricist respectively, who meet to collaborate as songwriters. However, they are both somewhat sensitive and perhaps a little high maintenance, while also being both critical and defensive. Continuing the Woody Allen comparison, it’s like a working relationship and budding romance in which Woody Allen meets his gender-opposite counterpart. In other words, it’s funny.

“They’re Playing Our Song” unites two NHT “veterans” Nanci Zoppi and Jerry Lee as the leads, each of whom are well suited to the roles. And the character’s similar temperaments are also reflected in their respective three-member greek choruses that act like combination muses and personal backup singers (and who very efficiently become the stage crew between scenes). The set is simple but effective, with crowded shelving units creating a sense of divided spaces and also semi-shielding the full band that accompanies the show, and two of the hardest working folding chairs in theater.

Direction is by NHT Founder and Artistic Director Connor Mickiewicz, musical direction by local cabaret mogul Graham Sobelman, choreography by Kiera Anderson, stage management by Caitlin Sapunor-Davis, and collateral material design (poster, tickets) by Paul Le. Additional cast members, familiar to local cabaret and theater fans, are Rosemary Babich, Joseph Boyette, Rebecca Mason, T. Patrick Van, Hilary Wells, and Mike Yee.

“They’re Playing Our Song” continues with shows Thursdays-Saturdays through April 2nd – with an 8pm show each day and an additional 2pm show each Saturday (with the exception of theSaturday, March 19th matinee which starts at 1pm). All shows are at the neat Artisan Building at 1901 Del Paso Blvd, and tickets are available through brownpapertickets.com.

More information at www.newhelvetia.org

Tickets at www.brownpapertickets.com/event/153042


Note: The show photographs were taken, with permission, during the dress rehearsal – some set and/or costume details may have changed.

About the author

Tony Sheppard

Tony is a Professor at Sacramento State, Co-Director of the Sacramento Film & Music Festival and a long-time writer, primarily on topics related to film and the film industry. He is an active supporter of the local arts community, an amateur photographer, and has an interest in architecture and urban planning topics. He is currently designing a 595 sq.ft. house on a very small infill lot in Sacramento.

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