[ATTENDED: June 20, 2013] She Loves Me
I won free tickets to this show in Murray Dodge Hall, and olde theater in the heart of the Princeton University campus. Sarah and I were delighted to discover that the theater held only 190 people and that our seats were in the fifth row!
This is student theater, but, as I said to Sarah, these are seriously good acting students (better than most of the students that I went to school with, anyhow).
She Loves Me is a musical based on the drama Parfumerie by Hungarian playwright Miklos Laszlo. Before being adapted in 1963 as She Loves Me, (Music by Jerry Bock, Lyrics by Sheldon Harnick, Book by Joe Masteroff) it was previously adapted as the 1940 film The Shop Around the Corner and the 1949 musical In the Good Old Summertime. It was also revisited in 1998 as You’ve Got Mail.
If you’ve seen any of these adaptations, yo know the story. And if you haven’t, it is this: two shop workers who dislike each other are secretly each others’ pen pals. In this version, they each write to a lonely hearts column, and plan to meet for the first time very soon. It’s a simple enough story. But what sold me in this version was the music—which was simple and catchy and very very funny.
Although the story is set in Budapest in the 1930s (which you can tell from the costumes), there’s nothing special about the setting in the story (except for the prices of the goods and the names of the characters). The shop scenes are the funniest, especially the overlapping dialogue of the song.
Put a little lipstick…
…on your nose…
Morning and evening.
And a little brush for…
There’s also a funny running joke that the staff sings “Thank you….Madame” each time someone leaves the shop.
I was surprised by the subplot, which is that Mr Maraczek, the shop owner, is suddenly very mean to Georg. Georg has been with the company for years and was even invited to Mr Maraczek’s house on occasion. Unexpectedly, Mr Maraczek, played by Evan Thompson (and reminding me of Scott Thompson with his mustache) stats yelling at him and suggesting that his services might be better used elsewhere. This sets a number of stories in motion.
There is also the wonderful character of Ilona, (played by Katrina Michaels) who was utterly mesmerizing in this performance. I literally couldn’t keep my eyes off of her. Even when she wasn’t actively in the scene, she remained in character, jocular, a little silly, with a bemused smile even while just watching the other actors sing or dance. She really seemed like her character was enjoying the show herself. And her song A Trip to the Library was very funny
And all of the while I was wondering why
An illiterate girl should attract him.
Then all of a sudden, he said that I
couldn’t go wrong with “The Way of all Flesh.”
Of course it’s a novel, but I didn’t know,
or I certainly wouldn’t have smacked him!
Another stand-out performance came from the sleazy and sexually promiscuous clerk, Kolday (played with excellent smarm by Kenny Francoeur). His two feature songs were fantastic as was his cane dance.
And for comic relief there was delivery boy Arpad (played by Brad Wilson), who does an excellent job in his solo song, including a great falsetto when he sings in the character of Ilona. Another awesome moment of comic relief comes in the song “Perspective” sung by put-upon clierk Ladisov Sipos, played by Tommy Prast:
Here’s my rule,
Where’s my pride?
Swallowed long ago.
Where it doesn’t show.
Bowing, scraping, nodding, beaming
Not an ounce of self respect.
Yes sir, yes sir, you’re so right sir
Black is white sir
‘Scuse me while I genuflect.
And finally there are the main performers—the lonley hearts, the pen pals that set everything in motion. Georg has a big bouncy performance and Woody Buck handled everything with great gusto (and some impressive physical moves) and Amalia Balash (played Holly Linneman) had some tough high notes to hit but managed very well. But it was more of her presence that was so captivating in the play. She really held a scene very well.
And lest I forget, the incidental players were excellent too. There were several chorus members who appeared regularly—as a waiter (hilarious) and busboy (ditto) and as patrons of the store and the restaurant (we marveled at their ability to really seem like they were having silent conversations). The near-the-end song “Twelve Days to Christmas” was hilarious,
Nine days to Christmas,
Still enough time to do your Christmas shopping
These are the people who plan their days wisely and well
These are the people who shop in time, and they can go to hell!
and the fact that the chorus began in the aisles (right next to us in the first verse) and then moved on stage with more and more frenetic energy (and very funny lyrics) made me like the show all the more.
And the simple and easy to change sets were really clever. Just a few windows on wheels conveyed the inside and outside of the shop. And the musical interludes (the orchestra was on stage behind the action and it was really cool watching the first violin play a great introductory solo) were delightful while the cast helped to spin the sets around.
I was really really impressed by this show right up to the end (where that “Thank you, Madame” chorus was directed at the audience. And I’m interested to see more at this summer theater.