SALEM - There is still plenty of life, as well as lilts and laughs, in the 1979 musical, They’re Playing Our Song by Neil Simon, Marvin Hamlisch and Carole Bayer Sager. The Fort Salem production more than proves that and last Sunday’s matinee audience certainly agreed as shown by its standing ovation.
Starring Channel 13’s news anchor and health reporter Benita Zahn with Tim Nelson, who also directs this lively production, the semi-autobiographical play about Hamlisch and Sager moves rapidly and most enjoyably to its happy conclusion.
Zahn brings her remarkable pep to this stage where it is matched perfectly by Nelson’s vitality as the two spend their time in verbal sparring in their on again-off again romantic affair as their characters combine their talents to create songs that hopefully will bring them fame and fortune.
The two seasoned actors handle the humor and the pathos with energy and what appears most believably to be sincerity. The result is a very satisfying experience despite the fact that few of the songs ever made it close to the hit parade.
Except for a cameo appearance at the grand piano in a restaurant scene by producer Jay Kerr, the two are alone on stage all the time but one never tires of that. Both bring a freshness and certainly a remarkable talent for showmanship to the production.
Backstage voices are provided by Kerr, Aaron Butler, Lynne Kerr, Jessica O’Keefe and Maureen Pagano.
The set features a New York skyline view from the Central Park luxurious apartment of Nelson’s Vernon Gersch which alternates with the rather crummy abode of Zahn’s Sonia Walsk, purposely created for its comic effect.
Music, mostly recorded, is delightful although there are moments when the sound system makes understanding the spoken lines a bit difficult.
But we can certainly enjoy the melodic "I Still Believe in Love" as well as the more than delightful title song since Zahn and Nelson both know how to wow an audience with their singing talent.