They’re Playing Our Song | Stages St. Louis

theyreplaying sqThe word that comes to mind for Maria Couch’s portrayal of the free-spirited Sonia is “effervescent.”


Book by Neil Simon, music by Marvin Hamlisch, lyrics by Carole Bayer Sager



Kicking off its 28th season, Stages St. Louis gives a nod to classic Broadway with its production of They’re Playing Our Song. The story focuses on the relationship between a lyricist, Sonia Walsk, and a composer, Vernon Gersch. The two start working together and inevitably fall in love. While the bulk of the plot centers around the dynamics of the two, it is augmented by each main character’s trio of a “Greek chorus.” The two have their ups and downs, and ultimately are forced to learn how to create harmony in both their professional and personal lives.

The High Points

Maria Couch, who plays Sonia, entranced me from the start. The word that comes to mind for her portrayal of the free-spirited character is “effervescent.” Her comedic timing was dead on and her vocal ability is equally impressive. I think the quality I liked best about her performance was her charisma, which she has in abundance.

Seth Rettberg, who plays Vernon, also turned in an outstanding performance. At first I thought his deadpan delivery was going to be a drawback, but as the show went on, that quality made him shine. The man can land a joke with a straight face, and his vocal ability was equally impressive as his counterpart.

Each lead character had a “Greek trio” which represents different parts of their ego. The trios—dressed in identical costumes as their lead—would drop in and out from time to time, and made a big splash every time they hit the stage.  Mainly serving as comic relief, both groups displayed wonderful dancing and vocal abilities. 

Both James Wolk and Lou Bird deserve mention for their contributions for scenic design and costume design, respectively. While I will ding Wolk for one aspect in the low points, his sets were well-thought-out and transitioned seamlessly. Bird did an equally impressive job dressing the characters in period costumes.

The Low Points

Rettberg’s piano playing. It was overly obvious that the piano music was canned. He used his arms a bit too much and made me laugh—and not in the good way.

While the majority of the jokes were classically funny, there were several that came off as corny and fell flat. Perhaps it was the time period the musical is set: the ’70s. I was a wee lad back then and I often found myself not getting the references.

The pacing of the show felt strained at times. More than once I felt the show just stalled, breaking up the momentum of the production.

Overall, the songs are just not that memorable. I realize this show was written during a very different time of Broadway history, but the only song I found myself humming on the way home was the title song.

While this may seem trivial, I did notice that not one of the phones were corded. C’mon, Wolk: The devil is in the details.

The Bottom Line

While this musical may not have the jukebox appeal of current musicals, Stages St. Louis does a wonderful job in paying honor to a Broadway classic. Strong performances by two very talented actors make for an enjoyable night at the theatre. | Jim Ryan


They’re Playing My Song runs at the the Robert G. Reim Theatre located at 111 S Geyer Rd. in Kirkwood from now until June 29. For more information, please visit Stages St. Louis online.

You can follow me on Twitter @ReviewerJim

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