"She Loves Me"

By Roz Friedman

It is no wonder that the run of She Loves Me has had to add another week to its run to May 15! Everyone loves it. And so they should. Artistic Director Mark Lamos shows off his wonderful style in choosing a splendid cast and directing it with panache. From the floating cupid holding up the corner of the Lavender blue organza curtain to the sounds of a harp rippling through the orchestrations, we know at once this is a romantic musical. Joe Masteroff’s Book is based on Hungarian playwright Miklos Laszlos’ 1937 Parfumerie, which was over the years made into three wildly successful films: “The Shop Around The Corner,” “In the Good Old Summertime,”  and most recently, in 1998, “You’ve Got Mail.” This musical version opened  on Broadway 1963. Jerry Bock’s Music reflects European sensibilities and Sheldon Harnick’s Lyrics express a contemporary flair that gives the love story a timeless quality.

Set in a jewel-like Budapest Parfumerie, designed in rich tones by Riccardo Hernandez, lit warmly by Rui Rita, we meet the salesclerks, owner, and customers, costumed elegantly by Candice Donnelly. Jeremy Peter Johnson is charming as hard-working Georg Nowak, the favorite of his demanding boss, Mr. Maraczek, played with nice authority by Lenny Wolpe. I don’t know how she does it, but blond Nancy Anderson, whom we just saw several weeks ago Off Broadway in a starring role in Yank!, is  adorable here in red wig as Ilona, who is having a frustrating fling with ladies man Steven Kodaly, the tall and handsome Douglas Sills. How could we forget him for his run as the Scarlett Pimpernel? Then there is the experienced Michael McCormick as Ladislav Sipos, the philosopher of the group, and Arpad Laszlo, the bicycle delivery boy, who yearns to be a salesman, acted brightly by Christopher Shin. Did you notice, the playwright named that character after himself?!

Into this high-pressured, high-aspiration, good-mannered atmosphere comes Amalia Balash, a young pretty lady who needs a job. What a brilliant stroke to give the role to Jessica Grove. She so impressed us in the Fantasticks at Long Wharf, and here she has the chance to soar. Her vocal range is huge; her acting, lovely. Amalia gets the job, starts out on the wrong foot with Georg, neither of them knowing that they are pen pals writing “Dear Friend’ love letters to each other. Their journey to discover each other is the lynchpin of the show, interspersed with Mr. Maraczek’s unexpected problems.  David Bonanno is a flashy Headwaiter; Aaron Galligan-Stierle-the Busboy. 

If the First Act is a little long, the second act whizzes by helped by Choreographer Jonathan Butterell’s fast paced “12 Days of Xmas,” and the amiable Ensemble: Alison Cimmet, Jenny Latimer, Robin Lounsbury and Sam Pinkleton.                         

She Loves Me –at the Westport Country Playhouse—through MAY 15TH -A great way to celebrate its 80th birthday!!


(This review originally aired on WNFR Fine Arts radio.)

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