Highly Recommended: Charming chamber musical features smart lyrics and European sensibilities.
This charming, romantic 30’s style musical is a treat for the eyes with Jeffrey D. Kmiec’s colorful set design that unfolds like a European parfumerie in the 1930’s. With the playful sounds of Jerry Bock’s score, She Loves Me creates an atmosphere of elegant, 30’s Budapest, Hungary.
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.
Set in a Hungarian 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, loveable characters.
Director Aaron Thielen has cast the show with able performers who win out hearts. We are introduced to the Clerks with “Good Morning, Good Day” and their manners are exemplified each time a customer leaves the show with the harmonious “Thank you, Madam” sung by the clerks. Sipos played by James Earl Jones II, Jessica Naimy’s Ilona, Kodaly’s David Schlumpf, andGrant Lilian’s Arpad (alternating with Johnny Rabe) are the clerks with the big smiles and nice manners. Each lands their individual numbers with a blend of humor and pizzas. Lilian’s “Try Me” melts our heart . Jones II’s “Perspective” was a hoot and Naimys “I Resolve” was tasteful. Steven Strafford’s hilarious comedic manner leads the Cafe Imperial scene as he delivers his “A Romantic Atmosphere” number delightfully with clever Hungarian flavored dance lead by Aaron Thielen and the ensemble. This excellent number highlighted act one.
Romantic musical comedy necessitates that audiences love the boy-girl leads.Alex Goodrich’s charisma, good looks and wonderful smile together with his fine voice make him a terrific as Georg, the lonely clerk. Elizabeth Telford’s Amalia is the classic girl starving for love.Telford is funny, innocent with an excellent voice full of emotion. She effectively lands her songs. Her chemistry with Goodrich is honest. We cheer for them and can’t wait for them to hook-up. This is joyous escapism old-time musical comedy we’ve grown to cherish. JessicaNaimy was a hoot as Ilona with her “A Trip to the Library” and Terry Hamilton gave Mr. Maraczek a charming vulnerability and a commanding personality She Love Me has the warmth of a small show with the look and feel of a larger show with frantic movements in the “Twelve Days To Christmas” number underscores the Christmas shopping spree.
We are in excellent hands with Alex Goodrich (who is becoming Chicago’s top leading man) and the sweet-voiced and alluring leading lady in Elizabeth Telford. The sparks here between them are truthful. James Earl Jones II shows his sweet comic side and high schooler Grant Kilian adds a warmth and pleasant energy to the young delivery boy who desires to be a clerk at the parfumerie.
She Loves Me is a wonderful musical filled with heart and genuine truthful comedy. If you don’t know this show, consider that its writers (Book by Joe Masteroff -Cabaret; music by Jerry Bock & Sheldon Harnick -Fiddler On the Roof) are broadway giants. These guys know how to create a musical. She Loves me is a wonderful “feel-good’ show. Don’t miss it.