Saturday, April 2, 2016

Review of "She Loves Me"

The revival of She Loves Me is an old-fashioned, charming, romantic comedy with a winning cast; a vintage, classic score; and an eye-popping set.  Based on the play, The Shop Around the Corner, its plot revolves around two clerks working at Maraczek's Parfumerie.  When Georg Nowack (Zachary Levi) and Amalia Balash (Laura Benanti) first meet, it’s like oil and vinegar.  Unbeknownst to them , they are secretly smitten with each other through their correspondence, having met through the newspaper’s Lonely Hearts advertisement.  Their co-workers—Steven Kodaly (Gavin Creel), the smooth womanizer; Ilona Ritter (Jane Krakowski), the aging beauty hopelessly looking for love; Ladislav Sipos (Michael McGrath), the eager-to-please company man; the high-spirited and determined delivery boy, Arpad Laszlo (Nicholas Barasch); and the gruff store proprietor, Mr. Maraczek (Byron Jennings)—are all oblivious to the friskiness and subterfuge between the two associates.  Eventually, through inadvertent roadblocks, misdirection and stubbornness the romantic pen pals connect and fall in love.  Real love.  In the flesh.

Bookwriter Joe Masteroff has written a witty, breezy and entertaining libretto.  The dialogue is engaging, lively, and carefree.  He has developed real, substantive characters and scenes that effortlessly flow from one to the other.

The score by Sheldon Harnick and Jerry Bock ranks as one of their finest and this is the team behind Fiddler on the Roof and Fiorello!  All the songs are self-contained gems, beautifully crafted and sung.  If you crave music and lyrics that are memorable and even hummable, She Loves Me will be a tasty treat to treasure.

The marvelous cast is led by a bevy of talented Tony Award winners.  Laura Benanti (Tony for Gypsy) is fiery, goofy, love lorn, headstrong, and radiant.  Her singing voice is so pure and beautiful.  Zachary Levi is totally convincing as the bewildered, lovesick and fumbling clerk who, once putting pen to paper, becomes an eloquent and erudite gentleman.  Jane Krakowski (Tony winner for Nine) is marvelously comedic as the yearning, passionate charmer searching for true contentment.  Michael McGrath (Tony winner for Nice Work If You Can Get It) is a lovable nebbish as the long time company man.  Gavin Creel is a devilish cad as the narcissistic, smooth operating clerk, Mr. Kodaly.  Nicholas Barasch is youthfully exuberant and Byron Jennings is sufficiently patriarchal as Mr. Maraczek.

Director Scott Ellis has taken the first rate cast and skillfully integrated them into a dynamic whole.  In fact, all elements of the production blend so wonderfully together, keeping an almost perpetual smile on audience members.  He smartly keeps the focus on the two central protagonists, but provides enough of a spotlight for the supporting performers to shine.  This includes a very amusing sequence in the CafĂ© Imperiale by the wait staff, portrayed by Peter Bartlett and Michael Fatica.

David Rockwell’s set design is impressive and visually breathtaking.  A jewel box Parfumerie opens up to a bright, splashy interior with multi-colored bottles and vessels.  It is a feast for the eyes that only heightens the overall pleasure of the show.

She Loves Me, a welcoming spring tonic.

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