"She Loves Me" at the Westport Country Playhouse
By Tom Nissley
If you want a grand reminder of the fun of an earlier generation’s musical comedies, rush to see “She Loves Me,” playing now at the Westport Playhouse. It’s about two ambitious youngsters, working in the same Perfumerie in Budapest, who get on each other’s nerves - big time. One insult follows another, and they have excellent fights. The only thing they have in common, and they don’t know this, is that they each have a secret pen pal, to whom they write amazing letters that over time have developed into a deep desire to meet with the express purpose of falling in love.
How ironic it is that these two who fight in the daytime, are really writing to each other in the nighttime. Yes. Believe it. His “Dear Friend” and her “Dear Friend” are none other than each other. And in the end, they - or is it Love - make/s it work.
I sent folks to see this even before I sat down to write you, and I’ll tell you what I told them: there’s probably not a good relationship in all of Fairfield County that wouldn’t be enhanced by watching how Georg (Jeremy Peter Johnson) and Amalia (Jessica Grove) untangle their irritation and turn it into adoration. They are, by the way, fine actors surrounded by other great actors and dancers in a stellar cast. Douglas Sills, Christopher Shin, Lenny Wolpe, Michael McKormick, Nancy Anderson, David Bonnano - all excellent, and there are more… well arranged and coordinated by director Mark Lamos and his team.
The set (Riccardo Hernandez) is beautiful and flexible, the lights and sound and costumes all good, and the musical direction (Wayne Barker) and choreography (Jonathaan Butterell) are superb.
If you’re familiar with “Cabaret” you’ll find some nice places where the book (by Joe Masteroff) has similar moments - the great strength of his writing is that there are extra twists to the plot, fleshed out by well-developed character roles, so we get treated to the scoundrel love affairs of Steven, the plight of Ilona, the gentle wisdom of Ladislav, the exuberance of Arpad, and the sad twist of fate for Mr. Maraczac. You’ll see what I’m referring to, and appreciate it.
You also may recognize the musical team of Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harris (“Fiddler on the Roof”). The bottom line is this show is very worth seeing and hearing and enjoying. It plays in Westport through Saturday, May 15. Go, go, go!
Tickets at www.westportplayhouse.org