‘They’re Playing Our Song’ at Central

The Egalitarian’s Emmanuel Akinola (left) interviews Anastasia Navarro (right), who plays the plays leading lady Sonia Walsk in HCC Central’s production of ‘They’re Playing Our Song’.

Emmanuel Akinola, Writer

The popular musical ‘They’re Playing Our Song’ by musician Marvin Hemlisch and playwright Neil Simon breathes new life at the Central campus of Houston Community College.

The revival is being directed by Kathleen Knight, a full-time faculty member in the Center of Excellence for Visual & Performing Arts where she teaches musical theatre.

The musical follows two characters, Vernon Gersch, a nerdy pop music composer; and Sonia Walsk, a free-spirited lyricist, who both fall in love despite their differences.

As the director puts it, the universal theme of the play is the idea of the “odd couple” which gives the story humor as a result. The musical also touches on mating and the results of trying to find love which Knight believes can be “painful and funny”, thereby highlighting the irony of those situations.

She also notes the modern-day musical theatre grew out of traditions from ancient Greece, which “echoed the conscience of the time” and presented issues in society that dramatists wanted to explore. In this case, Vernon and Sonia have a three-person chorus that embodies their inner voices, similar to a Greek chorus.

The male lead, Vernon, is played by Mark House, a student of Knight’s who brought ‘They’re Playing Our Song’ to her for consideration since his son loved the song. House wasn’t interested in theatre until taking an acting class to boost his GPA. “A professor pushed me to do it,” he says before jokingly admitting, “I’ve always been a clown since I was kid.”

Anastasia Navarro plays the leading lady Sonia Walsk. A year-long student of Knight’s, Navarro spent her life on stage while also dancing, singing and hosting for kids when she was younger. When she was cast, she was struck with how relatable Sonia was as a character.

“She’s very all over the place, clumsy, and very involved in what she does,” she says. When asked about how the character compares to herself, she replied, “She’s very similar.” This musical will be Navarro’s first project as an actress.

The musical was inspired by the life of Hamlisch himself, who met a woman like Sonia only for the relationship to have run its course sadly in later years. Knight noted how early on when the play was first made, Hemlisch attended one of the shows and was amazed at watching his life his life coming alive on stage.

To many, it may seem like the idea of musicals may be outdated. Not so to Knight.

“They’re alive and well,” she says, citing the example of Pippin, a Tony-Award winning musical that came to Houston in October. She also said that musicals are “an American art form that is thriving.”

The next project on Knight’s radar remains to be seen. She’s considering a revival of The Holiday Special since her students love it, but she still goes to Broadway shows like Beautiful, On the 20th Century, and Every Brilliant Thing for inspiration.

“It will be a show to remember,” House promises.

‘They’re Playing Our Song’ will be featured in Heinen Theatre at HCC Central, 3517 Austin at Holman, on Nov. 5-7 at 7:30pm and Nov. 8 at 2:30pm. Tickets will be sold at $10 for general admission and $7 for students. For more information, call 713-718-6570.