Review: They’re Playing Our Song (Brown Paper Box Co.)

| July 26, 2017

Dan Gold and Carmen Risi star as Vernon and Sonia in They're Playing Our Song, Brown Paper Box Co            
      

   

They’re Playing Our Song
 
Marvin Hamlisch (music), Neil Simon (book)
   and Carole Bayer Sager (lyrics)
at Rivendell Theatre, 5779 N. Ridge (map)
thru Aug 20  |  tix: $27  |  more info
       
Check for half-price tickets    
     


    
  

Timewarp to the 1970s with this groovy, romantic musical confection

  

They're Playing Our Song presented by Brown Paper Box Co. Chicago

    
Brown Paper Box Co. presents
    
They’re Playing Our Song

Review by Lauren Whalen

How you feel about They’re Playing Our Song will depend on how you feel about Neil Simon and the 1970s. Simon wrote the script, which is set in 1979, and his comedic trope of neurotic couples exchanging witty one-liners in between, well, various neuroses, is hard at work here. I happen to love both Simon and the ‘70s, and luckily Brown Paper Box Co.’s production of this rarely-produced musical embraces the playwright and the time period with open arms. Director and choreographer Daniel Spagnuolo leads a terrific cast and Carmen Risi and Dan Gold star as Sonia and Vernon in They're Playing Our Song at Brown Paper Box Costrong designers and staff in a production that, while not exactly flawless, is a groovy, colorful pleasure.

They’re Playing Our Song has only two characters: award-winning but lonely composer Vernon (Dan Gold) and successful, batty lyricist Sonia (Carmen Risi). Their agents have teamed them up to write some new pop songs, but the duo hits more than a few bumps in the road: Vernon is a disciplined stickler for routine, while Sonia is constantly late and can barely sit still long enough to crank out her work. (If you’ve seen Barefoot in the Park, these two are highly reminiscent of Corie and Paul Bratter.) Of course, things become even more complicated when, despite their differences, Vernon and Sonia fall madly in love – only Sonia’s ex-boyfriend Leon isn’t letting her go so easily.

What sets They’re Playing Our Song apart from other musicals of the era, are the presence of Vernon and Sonia’s “voices.” The Voices occasionally sing and rarely speak, but are a constant, hovering presence in Vernon and Sonia’s story. This device works well: creative types are often more in tune with the forces within that seem to work both for and against us. Spagnuolo’s excellent staging and choreography maximizes the Voices’ roles, using them as everything from backup dancers to set pieces, resulting in a fun, whimsical twist on the standard Simon romantic comedy. All six voices (three for each character) work beautifully as a unit but hold their own as performers, particularly Ariana Cappuccitti (who also serves as associate choreographer) and John Marshall, Jr., whose lovely dancing creates a sweet, wistful ambiance.

Mike Danovich, John Marshall Jr., Dan Gold and Bradley Halverson in They're Playing Our SongDan Gold and Carmen Risi star as Vernon and Sonia in They're Playing Our Song, Brown Paper Box Co Carmen Risi and Dan Gold star as Sonia and Vernon in They're Playing Our Song, Brown Paper Box Co.Carmen Risi, Deanalis Resto and  Ariana Cappuccitti star in They're Playing Our Song

Scenic/properties and costume designers Ashley Ann Woods and Kate Setzer Kamphausen, who boast impressive resumes with companies throughout the city, encompass the time period with a perfectly accurate color palette and fun designs. As the scatterbrained but gifted Sonia, Risi is a delight to watch, though she’s a much stronger actress than she is a singer and often struggles with the lower notes. Gold’s star is on the rise: his Vernon is flawless, type-A and adorably mad for music, Sonia and keeping his cards close to the vest. I hope to see more of him this coming season.

With its catchy pop score (courtesy of Marvin Hamlisch and Carole Bayer Sager) and unique yet comforting story, They’re Playing Our Song explores what happens when work and love collide in unexpected ways. (Did I mention I also love office romances?) Some older musicals stay buried for a reason, but They’re Playing Our Song is that rare gem: a product of its time that can still be enjoyed today.

  
Rating: ★★★½
  

They’re Playing Our Song continues through August 20th at Rivendell Theatre, 5779 N. Ridge (map), with performances Thursdays-Saturdays at 7:30pm, Sundays 2pm.  Tickets are $27, and are available online through their website (check for availability of half-price tickets). More information at BrownPaperBox.org(Running time: 2 hours 20 minutes, includes an intermission)

They're Playing Our Song presented by Brown Paper Box Co. Chicago 2

Photos by Zach Dries 


  

artists

cast

Carmen Risi (Sonia), Dan Gold (Vernon), Mike Danovich (Vernon’s voice, u/s Vernon), Bradley Halverson, John Marshall Jr. (Vernon’s voices), Elissa Newcorn (Sonia’s voice, u/s Sonia), Ariana Cappuccitti, Deanalís Resto (Sonia’s voices), Megan Gill, Joshua A. Peterson (swings)

behind the scenes

Daniel Spagnuolo (director, choreographer), Deanna Satin (stage manager), Iliana Atkins (musical director), Chelsea Wellmann (associate musical director), Ariana Cappuccitti (associate choreographer), Rebecca “Becs” Bartle (lighting design), Kate Setzer Kamphausen (costume design), Ashley Ann Woods (scenic and properties design), Jeremy Hollis (technical director), M. William Panek (production manager), Charlie Sheets (graphic designer), Zach Dries (photography), Matt Sergot (front of house manager), David Lipschutz (casting)

Carmen Risi and Dan Gold star as Sonia and Vernon in They're Playing Our Song, Brown Paper Box Co

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Category: 2017 Reviews, Brown Paper Box Co, Lauren Whalen, Marvin Hamlisch, Musical, Neil Simon, Rivendell Theatre

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