5 April 2014

Enjoying a RomCom


Pic Jean-Christophe Benoist Wikimedia Commons

RomCom? Musical? I wouldn't have expected to enjoy They're playing our song, presented at the Q Theatre. Not really my thing. In the end I did. The musical is written by Neil Simon, with music by Marvin Hamlisch and lyrics by Carole Bayer Sager. Big names. Successful (male) Grammy-winning, Juilliard-trained composer in apartment overlooking Central Park meets zany (female) lyricist. She has a hanger-on boyfriend (Leon) but she moves in, they go to dinner and sing, a car breaks down, they meet in the wrong holiday house, they play at therapists, they argue in a recording studio, he leaves for LA, breaks leg, they get back together. Along the way it felt like there were few songs with a good deal of repetition. This seems to be a style of newer musicals. It might be a good idea, as recent studies show we prefer music that we recognise. (I'm surprised to see Wikipedia lists 9 songs, one with a reprise, in 2 acts). I didn't find it particularly funny, and there was only limited laughter. This is American humour, not Australian. Everyone has a shrink (although given the GINI coefficient in the US these days, I doubt it's as common as we imagine). I heard on radio the other day, from an Australian who's lived in the US for some time, that Australians introduce themselves with self-denigrating humour, but Americans self-promote. There's a scene where they are out for dinner and he hears his first song played (the program suggests it's their first song). He stands and sings to the room, then she does, and I think they end up singing together. Theatrical licence, perhaps, but it spelt American big-noting to me. The musical is supposed to be based on the true story of Marvin Hamlisch and Carole Bayer Sager; maybe it is. Whatever, I didn't particularly warm to the work itself.

So why did I like the show? The whole show was two performers and a pianist deep stage right. The actors were really very good. Very good voices, in the musical style, understandable and cutting. They acted well together. Soppy romance but so well done. I also liked guessing the changes. This is not particularly modern music: it's very much like the standards repertoire that mainstream jazzers play (including me). I've been reading about listening rather than using fake books, so I enjoyed guessing the changes. Some I knew easily (obvious cycles, diatonic movements); I was lost on others. My ear is not well trained. I liked CBS's famous songs that they played (perhaps copyright-free chords only) as we entered and left the theatre. The way we were is a classic. You're moving out today was immensely catchy. I just listened again on YouTube, and this may be about Leon himself. Well, I'll be. RomCom as real life. Whatever, the singing was great.

Teagan Wouters played Sonia Walsk, Scott Irwin played Vernon Gersch, Alistair Smith (piano) accompanied.

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