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[[image - black & white photo of Robert Klein performing]]
[[caption]]Klein, who stars in "They're Playing Our Song," entertains at at White House gala[[/caption]]

Robert Klein

Actor-comedian Robert Klein has played Village coffee houses, college campuses and night spots from coast to coast. He's hosted the "Tonight Show" and "Saturday Night Live." His record albums have won Grammy nominations and his yearly "reunion" concerts at Carnegie Hall have been sellouts. His routines have become classics. Like the one and civil defense drills: (Stern teacher to students) "No-o-o-o talking! Now take these dog tags. They're to be used in case you're burnt beyond recognition in a nuclear holocaust. And remember, no-o-o-o talking during the holocaust. I'll be taking names."

But until he landed the leading role in the Neil Simon/Marvin Hamlisch musicial They're Playing Our Song he had never starred in a Broadway show. He'd kicked around Shubert Alley a few times before in the chorus of Mike Nichols' 1966 musical The Apple Tree. And in New Faces of '68 and Morning, Noon and Night - those two ran for only a few performances.

Then They're Playing Our Song came along. In it he plays the award-winning, slightly neurotic Vernon Gersch who falls head over heels in love with the fledgling lyricist Sonia Walsk (Lucie Arnaz). Mr. Simon's inspiration for musical was the composer Marvin Hamlisch's real life romance with the show's lyricist Carole Bayer Sager.

Mr. Klein cited several reasons for returning to the boards. "I'd gotten spoiled doing all those solo college concerts across the country," he said backstage in his dressing room at the Imperial recently. "I got so caught up producing, writing and directing those concerts and I had completely stopped acting. I hadn't done a TV drama or a movie in five or six years. People had forgotten I could act. When I was sent up for Burt Reynold's Hooper (in which Mr Klein played a very mad and funny film director), Burt said, 'I didn't know you could act.'"

Sipping a beer, the tall and dark-haired

by Bernard Carragher

30

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