Perhaps it is the complicated but realistic love story based on the true story of the musical’s lyricist Carole Bayer Sager and composer Marvin Hamlisch’s collaboration and courtship that reeled me in.
There is nothing easy about the relationship and love affair that lyricist Sonia Walsk (Tatem Trotter) and composer Vernon Gersch (Alex Allred) fall into when the celebrated Vernon asks successful lyricist Sonia to collaborate on a project. Sonia shows up at Vernon’s New York flat full of nervous energy jumping from one emotion to the next. As she says later in the play “I have a tendency to come on full speed ahead.”
Vernon on the other hand is sarcastic and sophisticated and just a little neurotic. At first he does not know what to do with the awkward, emotionally driven Sonia, but he is intrigued by her lyrics and she is in awe of his composing abilities. So, they decide to meet the next day at his studio to begin work. When Sonia shows up a day late for their first day of work because of difficulties with her ex-boyfriend Leon, Vernon starts to worry that this collaboration will not be as easy as he hoped. Sonia convinces Vernon they need to get to know each other socially so they can understand each other.
They meet up in a club for dinner and we begin to see that there is more to Vernon and Sonia than their first impressions implied.
The love story is made more delightful by Neil Simon’s cleverly written script. The dialogue is witty and intelligent. Perhaps I was also swayed by the catchy music sung by two great musical talents. I have been a fan of Trotter’s and Allred’s acting talent for years. I have watched their talent on the stage grow over those years and this play directed by Richard Hill showcased both their musical and acting talent. As soon as Allred began singing “Fallin” I was excited I would be hearing his voice over and over again for the next two hours. Trotter had an equally strong voice and an even stronger ability to switch from outrageously energetic one minute to brooding and depressed the next.
It is hard to imagine that a musical can be built around just two characters. However, with the help of their chorus of three men and three women (meant to be Vernon’s and Sonia’s creative voices and conscience) they lit up the stage with this intriguing story. Trotter and Allred did more than play these two characters, they lent their talent behind the scenes to the musical direction and choreography, with Trotter as the choreographer and Allred as the music director for the show.
The set itself was spare and simple and yet somehow a less intricate set worked well for this production. The scene changes were well choreographed and full of personality as the “voices” cast moved them on and off the stage in a way that made them a comical sideshow to the main plot line.
I loved this quirky, intelligent musical performed by two rising musical and acting talents. I am currently trying to figure out how I can fit seeing it again into my schedule before it closes on Aug. 8.
On a side note: I would consider this a PG-13 rating due to language and adult themes. The couple does run off for a weekend of lovemaking and decides to live together.