Friday, April 1, 2016

Broadway Theater Review: She Loves Me


Loving She Loves Me – This is How Revivals Should Be
By Lauren Yarger
She Loves Me, one of two Jerry Bock/Sheldon Harnick musicals getting a Broadway revival this season (Fiddler on the Roof is just a couple of blocks away), is something to love all right. This delightful, feel-good musical produced by Roundabout Theatre Company is just what revivals should be – fun that brings a smile to our face.

The title might not sound familiar, but trust me, you have seen the story. You might know it as the play Parfumerie by  Miklos Laszlo, or the 1940 film “The Shop Around the Corner” starring  James Stewart and Margaret Sullavan.

Or maybe you remember another film, 1949’s “In the Good Old Summertime,” starring Judy Garland and Van Johnson, or perhaps the 1998 remake “You’ve Got Mail,” with Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan.  They’re all the same story at their root. Two pen pals meet in person, not realizing who they are, and while they fall in love through their anonymous letters addressed only to e”Dear Friend,” in person, the sparks that fly are more combative in nature.

Here (in a book by Joe Masteroff) the pair is Laura Benanti (as Amalia Balash) and Zachary Levi (as Georg Nowack), clerks in a Budapest Parfumerie owned by Mr. Maraczek (a steady Byron Jennings). They fight from the moment Amalia lands a job at the shop, much to the amusement of their coworkers, dependable Ladislav Sipos (a solid Michael McGrath), Lothario Steven Kodaly (an oily Gavin Creel) who has been taking advantage of fellow employee, Ilona Ritter (a fun Jane Krakowski), and delivery boy Arpad Laszlo (a wide-eyed and youthful Nicholas Barasch).

Things get complicated when Mr. Maraczek believes Georg is having an affair with his wife and is in despair over being betrayed by the boy he has come to love as a son. Some tension also surfaces when Ilona won’t allow Kodaly to toy with her emotions any more and when the “Dear Friends'” plans to meet go awry. And that’s truly all the conflict there is in this two-hour-30-minute, ice-cream sweet musical (there’s even a whole song about ice cream). Will Georg and Amalia ever meet realize that true love has been standing right in front of their faces?

It’s whimsical, charming and fun – made so much more so by Warren Carlyle’s delightful choreography. He has a gift for knowing when less is more. As a result, movements are precise and exaggerated. A swivel on a stool conveys so much more than a waltz across the floor. But when dancing makes sense, they do.  There is a party scene incorporating various forms of dance, but it never feels overwhelming or distracts us from the story.

In addition, director Scott Ellis pays attention to detail. Every movement of each character means something and helps define personality. A splash of leaves ushers in a whole season. Jeff Mahshie creates flattering period costumes that contribute to the storytelling with David Rockwell’s detailed multi-tasking set (which gets its own rounds of applause) to create a delightful, visual odyssey.

Barasch makes us smile with his enthusiastic, bicycle riding youth who believes anything is possible. Peter Bartlett has some over-the-top fun as an annoyed waiter and standing out is Michael McGrath, whose comic delivery puts us in mind of Lou Costello.
  
The one draw back here is vocally. There are some flat notes, some duets where the voices aren’t in sync. This might be due to difficulties of having the band (under the Music Direction of Paul Gemignani) split in house boxes above the stage on either side, but the conductor is plainly visible on a monitor, so perhaps there is difficulty in hearing the accompaniment (Sound Design by Jon Weston) or I just attended on an off day?

Benanti’s operatic soprano seems a bit too overpowering for the light sounding Bock tunes, but a friend pointed out that the original orchestrations (done here by Larry Hochman) were for Barbara Cook. Somehow, though, Benanti doesn’t seem a match for Amalia.

She Loves Me entertains through June 12 at Studio 54, 2524 West 54th St., NYC. Performances are Tuesday through Saturday at 8 pm; Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday at 2 pm. Tickets are $52–$157roundabouttheatre.org.

Additional Credits:
Lighting Design by Donald Holder
Dance and Incidental Music David Kraine.
Ensemble: Cameron AdamsJustin BowenPreston Truman BoydAlison CimmetBenjamin Eakeley,  Sara EdwardsMichael FaticaGina FerrallJenifer FooteAndrew KoberLaura ShoopJim Walton.

FAMILY-FRIENDLY FACTORS:
--God's name taken in vain
-- Suicide attempt 

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Our reviews are professional reviews written without a religious bias. At the end of them, you can find a listing of language, content or theological issues that Christians might want to know about when deciding which shows to see.

** Mature indicates that the show has posted an advisory because of content. Usually this means I would recommend no one under the age of 16 attend.

Theater Critic Lauren Yarger

Theater Critic Lauren Yarger

My Bio

Lauren Yarger has written, directed and produced numerous shows and special events for both secular and Christian audiences. She co-wrote a Christian musical version of “A Christmas Carol” which played to sold-out audiences of over 3,000 in Vermont and was awarded the 2000 Vermont Bessie (theater and film awards) for “People’s Choice for Theatre.” She also has written two other dinner theaters, sketches for church services and devotions for Christian artists.

Yarger trained for three years in the Broadway League’s Producer Development Program, completed the Commercial Theater Institute's Producing Three-Day Training and produced a one-woman musical about Mary Magdalene that toured nationally and closed with an off-Broadway run.

She was a Fellow at the National Critics Institute at the O'Neill Theater Center in Waterford, CT. She writes reviews of Broadway and off-Broadway theater (the only ones you can find in the US with an added Christian perspective) at http://reflectionsinthelight.blogspot.com/.

She is editor of The Connecticut Arts Connection (http://ctarts.blogspot.com), an award-winning website featuring theater and arts news for the state. She is a contributing editor for BroadwayWorld.com and is a theater reviewer for the Manchester Journal-Inquirer. She previously served as Connecticut theater editor for CurtainUp.com and as Connecticut and New York reviewer for American Theater Web.

Yarger is a book reviewer for Publishers Weekly and freelances for other sites. She is a member of the National Book Critics Circle.

She is a freelance writer and playwright and member of The Drama Desk, The Outer Critics Circle, The American Theater Critics Association and The League of Professional Theatre Women. She served as a judge for the SDX Awards presented by the Society of Professional Journalists. She also is a member of the Connecticut Critics Circle and the CT Press Club.

A former newspaper editor and graduate of the University of Missouri’s School of Journalism, Yarger also worked in arts management for the Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts, the Hartford Symphony Orchestra and served for nine years as the Executive Director of Masterwork Productions, Inc. She lives with her husband in West Granby, CT. They have two adult children.

Copyright

All material is copyright 2008- 2017 by Lauren Yarger. Reviews and articles may not be reprinted without permission. Contact reflectionsinthelight@gmail.com

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Key to Content Notes:

God's name taken in vain -- means God or Jesus is used in dialogue without speaking directly to or about them.

Language -- means some curse words are used. "Minor" usually means the words are not too strong or that it only occurs once or twice throughout the show.

Strong Language -- means some of the more heavy duty curse words are used.

Nudity -- means a man or woman's backside, a man's lower front or a woman's front are revealed.

Scantily clad -- means actors' private areas are technically covered, but I can see a lot of them.

Sexual Language -- means the dialogue contains sexually explicit language but there's no action.

Sexual Activity -- means a man and woman are performing sexual acts.

Adultery -- Means a married man or woman is involved sexually with someone besides their spouse. If this is depicted with sexual acts on stage, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Sex Outside of Marriage -- means a man and woman are involved sexually without being married. If this is depicted sexually on stage, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Homosexuality -- means this is in the show, but not physically depicted.

Homosexual activity -- means two persons of the same sex are embracing/kissing. If they do more than that, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Cross Dresser -- Means someone is dressing as the opposite sex. If they do more than that on stage the listing would include the corresponding "sexual activity" and/or "homosexual activity" as well.

Cross Gender -- A man is playing a female part or a woman is playing a man's part.

Suggestive Dancing -- means dancing contains sexually suggestive moves.

Derogatory (category added Fall 2012) Language or circumstances where women are referred to or treated in a negative and demeaning manner.

Other content matters such as torture, suicide or rape will be noted, with details revealed only as necessary in the review itself.

The term "throughout" added to any of the above means it happens many times throughout the show.

Reviewing Policy

I receive free seats to Broadway and Off-Broadway shows made available to all voting members of the Outer Critics Circle and The Drama Desk, the two professional critics organizations with journalists covering NY theater. Journalistically, I provide an unbiased review and am under no obligation to make positive statements. Sometimes shows do not make tickets available to reviewers. If these are shows my readers want to know about (I review all Broadway shows and pertinent Off-Broadway shows), I will purchase a ticket. If a personal friend is involved in a production, I'll let you know, but it won't influence a review. If I feel there is a conflict, I won't review their portion of the production.

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