Book by Joe Masteroff
Music by Jerry Bock
Lyrics by Sheldon Harnick
Directed by Michael Halberstam
Musical Direction by Ben Johnson
Charming, humorous, innocent and sweet chamber musical a pleaseant evening of theatre.
Michael Halberstam has cast an all-star group to populate a show considered the “perfect” musical – She Loves Me. This flawlessly splendid production is filled with loads of heart. It’s magnetism exudes from its romanticism.
She Loves Me is based on a play called Parfumerie by Miklos Laszlo, which was also made into the movies : Shop Around the Corner (starring Margaret Sullivan and James Stewart), The Good Old Summertime (Judy Garland and Van Johnson), and You’ve Got Mail (Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks). The book is by Joe Masteroff, who also wrote Cabaret. The music and lyrics are by Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harnick, who also wrote Fiorello, The Apple Tree, and Fiddler on the Roof. She Loves Me was first produced on Broadway in 1963 with Barbara Cook, Daniel Massey, and Jack Cassidy. It was revived on Broadway in 1993. The two Broadway productions earned two Tony awards and a total of 23 nominations. The Writers’ Theatre production is my third Chicago production, Circle Theatre and the Theatre at the Center.
Set in a European perfume shop in the 1930s, the delightful characters inhabit a world suffused with love and longing. The central story revolves around the two feuding clerks, Georg and Amalia, who secretly find solace in their anonymous romantic pen pals, little knowing that their respective correspondents are each other. Made into a good looking jewel box musical, She Loves Me is pure fun, full of fine songs and witty lyrics and cute, lovable characters.
This charming light-weight musical features an amazing array of Chicago talents. Led by the shop’s owner, Mr. Maraczek (Ross Lehman) and featuring Ladislav Sipos (Kevin Gudahl), Heidi Kettenring (Ilona Ritter), James Rank (Steven Kodaly) and Bernard Balbot (Arpad Laszio), She Loves Me boasts a cast from the finest Chicago musical comedy actors. You’ll not find a finer ensemble.
This romantic musical sounds terrific – Ben Johnson’s chamber orchestra and the performers were not amplified yet each musical note and lyric soared throughout Writers’ Theatre’s Tudor space. It is freshing to hear natural sounds in a musical!
She Loves Me features two women each looking for romantic love. Ilona Ritter (Kettenring) has a anger-filled relationship with two-timing Kodaly (Rank). When the two finally slit, Ilona finds her mate in the library.
When Amalia Balash (Jessie Mueller) get hired at the Parfumerie, she immediately starts a sparks-flying love-hate relationship with Greorg Nowack (Rod Thomas), the manager. Mueller and Thomas have fabulous stage chemistry and each have enough innocent charm to spare. Jessie Mueller nails her songs as she demonstrates her lovely soprano voice. Thomas cutely plays the in-love fumbling guy. We cheer for these two to eventually work things out. Rod Thomas exudes happiness in his “She Loves Me” song in act two.
The customers – Stephanie Herman, Bethany Thomas and Kelli Clevenger spark the production with comic moments and rich harmonies. The cast also harmonizes each of their purchases with a cute “Thank You, Madam” refrain.
She Love Me is a chamber romantic musical filled with character-specific songs with smart lyrics (by Sheldon Harnick) on Jerry Bock’s bouncy score. This is a feel-good musical fantasy that is sophisticated in its simplicity. The effective and seemingly easy manner from director Michael Halberstam’s cast is a testimony to everyone understanding and respecting the nature of the material. This is a slickly enchanting musical. Jessie Mueller and Rod Thomas were outstanding. Halberstam has a “perfect” production of a “perfect” musical.
At Writers’ Theatre, 325 W. Tudor Court, Glencoe, IL, call 847-242-6000, www.writerstheatre.org, tickets $45 – $70, Tuesdays & Wednesdays at 7:30 pm, Thursdays thru Saturdays at 8 pm, Sundays at 6 pm, matinees on Saturdays at 4 pm and Sundays at 2 pm, special Wednesday matinees ar 2 pm – Oct 13 & Nov 17.