Home Made Theater is celebrating Valentine’s Day this weekend and next at the Dee Sarno Theater inside Saratoga Arts with a romantic comedy packed with catchy tunes and one-liners.
“They’re Playing Our Song,” a Tony Award-nominated musical that opens Friday, marks Eric Rudy’s directorial debut with the company. The musical is composed by Marvin Hamlisch, with lyrics by Carole Bayer Sager and a book by Neil Simon.
It’s loosely based on the relationship between Bayer Sager and Hamlisch, and follows what happens when an established composer and an aspiring lyricist come together; while their professional relationship works right from the start, they hit a few bumps when it comes to their romantic relationships and comic sparks fly.
“I really wanted to do this piece because it means a lot to me. It’s the first Broadway show I ever saw when I was 13 years old and it was my first trip to New York City. And it was on that trip that I decided that someday I was going to . . . pursue theater in some fashion,” said Rudy, who is Home Made’s general manager.
Beyond personal inspiration, it’s an ideal time to present the show.
“It’s a lovely, light, funny, romantic musical comedy perfect for Valentine’s Day,” Rudy said.
Since the production is focused on one couple, the cast is relatively small.
“It’s entirely a two-character production and then the ensemble plays a Greek chorus which serves as the voices in their head that give them advice and comment on the action and the emotions that are happening in a particular scene,” Rudy said.
The two main characters, Sonia and Vernon, are played by Joelle Malinowski and Ryan Munzert. They’re joined by Jackie Dugas, Michelle Fulford, Logan Haynes, Jerry Ryan, and Isabella Sarno.
It takes place in a wide range of settings, including a disco, a beach house and a recording studio, among other locations. Since the Dee Sarno Theater is a black box theater, set designer William E. Fritz had to create nimble set pieces to pull off the production’s variety of scenes.
“Some of them are two-sided so we can change locations just by turning the piece around. There are no real walls. They’re just pieces. [It’s] very creative,” Rudy said.
They’re staying true to the original storyline of “They’re Playing Our Song,” which opened in 1979. However, they have updated some of the jokes that would be considered outdated or derogatory today.
“So we have tried to eliminate as [many] of those kinds of references as we could without harming the script,” Rudy said.
The production hasn’t come without its challenges. The company had to cancel a few rehearsals several weeks ago because of COVID and the cast had to rehearse most of the show with masks on.
The company is also getting used to its new digs.
Last fall, Home Made Theater moved its performances from the Spa Little Theater to the Dee Sarno Theater, inside Saratoga Arts. Audience members overall were excited that the company could continue presenting productions, according to Rudy.
“They’re happy to see that we’re able to keep going,” said Rudy said.
Rehearsals, set design, etc. are all done in a space the theater company rents in Wilton Mall.
“We have rehearsed the last two shows up there . . . we build our sets out there and pack everything up and move it to Saratoga Arts,” Rudy said.
The company rents a U-Haul truck for transportation and several volunteers help load and unload the set. It adds another layer of preparation to the production.
However, Rudy said the company is up for the challenge.
“They’re Playing Our Song” runs for two weekends starting Friday and wrapping up on Sunday, Feb. 20. Home Made Theater requires proof of vaccination and/or a negative COVID-19 test within three days of attending the show. Masks will also be required. For anyone with accessibility issues, the company has a reserved space outside of Saratoga Arts and can provide identification so that the vehicle can be parked out front during the show and won’t be ticketed or towed.
“They’re Playing Our Song”
WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays; Feb. 11-19 and 2 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays Feb. 12-20.
WHERE: Dee Sarno Theater at Saratoga Arts, 320 Broadway, Saratoga Springs
MORE INFO: homemadetheater.org