Love in the Time of the Tape Recorder

After playing Elle Woods in Legally Blonde (2010), The Cat in Seussical the Musical (2010), and Hope Charity in Sweet Charity (2011), triple threat Nikki Gil is back to portray another quirky character, this time in They’re Playing Our Song.

9 Works Theatrical’s offering for Valentine’s month —"They’re Playing Our Song," was first staged in Los Angeles in 1978.

9 Works Theatrical’s offering for Valentine’s month —”They’re Playing Our Song,” was first staged in Los Angeles in 1978.

Nikki plays aspiring female lyricist Sonia Walsk opposite Grammy-winning composer Vernon Gersch, played by stage veteran Lorenz Martinez. Based on the real-life relationship of the show’s Broadway creators, the late Tony Award-winning composer Marvin Hamlisch (The Goodbye Girl, A Chorus Line) and Grammy-winning songwriter Carole Bayer Sager (Carole King, Michael Jackson, Diana Ross), They’re Playing Our Song is a romantic-comedy musical that centers on the two characters.

I watched Singaporean actor Adrian Pang and our own Lea Salonga’s version thirteen years ago, but being inexperienced in theater and equally clueless about love, I forgot most of the story.

What I do remember is that the play is set in 1980, back when modern technology involved the basic telephone and tape recorder. To watch a relationship evolve without the help of Facebook and text messaging made me realize that love was so much simpler and purer back in the day.

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For this year’s version directed by Robbie Guevara, the combination of Nikki’s offbeat character and Lorenz’s wisecrack humor deserves a round of applause. However, as a rom-com production, their “com” overpowered the “rom.” I’m hoping that after last week’s press preview, the succeeding shows will unleash more romantic chemistry between the two topbillers.

High-strung but endearing, Nikki Gil’s character Sonia Walsk is quirky in both her personality and wardrobe. Unlike her previous productions that had the help of many leads, supporting characters, and strong choruses, “They’re Playing Our Song” polished Nikki’s stage presence.

High-strung but endearing, Nikki Gil’s character Sonia Walsk is quirky in both her personality and wardrobe. Unlike her previous productions that had the help of many leads, supporting characters, and strong choruses, “They’re Playing Our Song” polished Nikki’s stage presence.

The last time I watched Lorenz Martinez was when he played Snoopy the dog in last year’s “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown.” It’s great to see him unleash more of his singing and acting prowess as Vernon Gersch.

The last time I watched Lorenz Martinez was when he played Snoopy the dog in last year’s “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown.” It’s great to see him unleash more of his singing and acting prowess as Vernon Gersch.

With the show’s weight relying on Nikki and Lorenz, the two did a great job keeping the audience’s attention and interest. Nikki brought her own Sonia formula to the stage, while Lorenz’s portrayal of the dorky and guarded Vernon was accomplished with his endless sarcastic remarks and witty one-liners. Except for a few stuttered lines, their non-stop bickering and personality clash tickled the audience’s funny bones.

It’s not exactly a two-man show. The six supporting cast members—Peachy Atilano, Anna Santamaria, and Jill Peña as Sonia’s voices in her head; and Reb Atadero, Noel Rayos, and James Stacey as Vernon’s voices in his head—helped polish the play, especially the three boys who hammed up Vernon’s inner dorkiness.

Vernon’s boys and Sonia’s girls helped hold the weight of the production.

Vernon’s boys and Sonia’s girls helped hold the weight of the production. And although you never actually see him in the show, Sonia’s ex-boyfriend Leon makes a great “third character.”

Other pluses include the revolving stage peppered with genuine ’80s gadgets and decors to complement the 1980 setting and colorful late ’70s/ early ’80s outfits. Sonia’s eccentric wardrobe was a treat for theater fans who got the Broadway references.

Plus points for the colorful 1980 set. I owned a phone like that (next to Vernon) in the ’80s.

Plus points for the colorful 1980 set. I owned a phone like that (next to Vernon) in the ’80s.

And of course, let’s not forget the musical score that both Lorenz and Nikki performed well with the help of 9PO Orchestra. Light love ballads such as the opening song, “Fallin’” will take you back to an era where it was okay to request for love songs on the radio and dedicate it to your crush–or better yet, record your favorite tracks on a cassette tape as your token of love for “the one.” Even if you’re too young to remember that decade or too in denial to admit it, these classic love songs are still a delight to hear in 2013, especially in between humorous stage dialogues.

They’re Playing Our Song will run at the Carlos P. Romulo Auditorium, RBCB Plaza, Makati from February 8 – March 3. For tickets, call 9 Works Theatrical at (+632) 586-7105, (+63917) 554-5560, or Ticketworld at (+632) 891-9999. Also visit 9workstheatrical.com, facebook.com/9workstheatrical, or twitter.com/9WT, and tickeworld.com.ph.

The cast and artistic team of 9 Works Theatrical’s "They’re Playing Our Song"

The cast and artistic team of 9 Works Theatrical’s “They’re Playing Our Song”

Cast:
Nikki Gil as Sonia Walsk
Lorenz Martinez as Vernon Gersch
Peachy Atilano, Anna Santamaria, and Jill Peña as Sonia’s girls
Reb Atadero, Noel Rayos, and James Stacey as Vernon’s boys

Photos by Zai Boongaling. Movie poster courtesy of 9 Works Theatrical.
Also read my interview with Nikki Gil for BDJbox.com here.



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