It is refreshing to see a show pay tribute to a great creative mind, that was just that, a great creative mind… no drug problems, no turbulent childhood, and no drama. That was Marvin Hamlisch, a genuinely talented, stand-up, likeable guy, who by just being himself ended up as one of only twelve people able to snatch up an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar (actually 3), and Tony award. Add to that a Pulitzer Prize and two Golden Globes, and it is undeniable that he was a phenomenal composer and conductor, deserving to be celebrated just for that!
A celebration of the work and world of Hamlisch is exactly what you find in the inspiring production ‘I Am Playing Your Song’, currently showing at Theatre on the Bay in Camps Bay. The show captures everything, his very essence, as described by his close friend Barbra Streisand:
“He was a true musical genius, but above all that, he was a beautiful human being… it was his brilliantly quick mind, his generosity, and delicious sense of humor that made him a delight to be around.”
Even just as a whisper of a memory, this show still makes him a delight to be around. The friendship between Streisand and Hamlisch is a golden thread that runs throughout this sometimes comical, but always beautiful, nostalgic ode to the man who, in my opinion, composed the best James Bond theme ever.
When Jonathan Roxmouth (as Hamlisch) and Sharon Spiegel-Wagner (as Carly Simon), did their version of ‘Nobody Does It Better’ on opening night, this Bond fan could not stop grinning. That grin stayed glued to my face straight through the show until they sang ‘I Finally Found Someone’, as the story turned to Hamlisch and the love of his life, Terre Blair (also played by Spiegel-Wagner). At that stage my grin turned into an expression of pure giddy delight, as my mind took me to the duet version by Barbra Streisand and Bryan Adams. Roxmouth and Spiegel-Wagner matched it note for note!
As I sat there in the comfy theatre seats, I realised that every Hamlisch inspired note has the power to evoke a memory in my life. Getting to glimpse into the life and mind of the man that used his talent to such a degree that he impacted the musical appreciation of a whole generation (at least), is an absolutely amazing experience.
In this show, Roxmouth once again proves himself a brilliant chameleon. For me he became Hamlisch to such an extent that I at times forgot that it wasn’t the man himself. Although the whole show is a treat from whichever seat, if I can give one tip… for an added bonus in this must-see show experience, sit in seats 16 – 20. From there you will have the privilege of being hypnotized not only by his voice, but also by the sight of Roxmouth’s fingers, as they magically bring the ivory keys to life. That in itself is enough reason to book your tickets today.
But wait, there is more, and more, and more. That more is Spiegel-Wagner, and the numerous roles she plays, from Hamlisch’s brilliantly portrayed mother (great depth just there!), to well-known legends such as Carole Bayer Sager, Cher, Barbra Streisand, not to forget the queen of his heart, his wife, Terre. Spiegel-Wagner truly impresses with both her voice and her onstage presence.
Everything in this show reveals that Hamlisch lived according to his mom’s words, “make elbows”. If you want something, make a space for yourself, and make it work. So if you want to see this show – and yes, yes you truly do – then “make elbows”, and grab your tickets at Computicket, before run ends 6 February 2016.
Just in case you don't believe me that this is a must for your theatre diary, I will leave the final verdict to theatre fan Charmaine van der Merwe, with her excited response after seeing the show:
"Making elbows.... And as far as Roxmouth as Hamlish is concerned: 'Nobody does it better....'! Great Show!"