Theater Review: 'She Loves Me'

By: 
Ben Miles
Brian Vaughn and Erin Mackey in "She Loves Me."
 
”She Loves Me” is a musical set in the Depression Era, circa 1930s. Two sales people – Georg and Amalia – employed at Maraczek’s Parfumerie, seem to expel malodorous contempt of one another when face-to-face.
 
Nevertheless, the love life possibilities of each seems enhanced by the anonymous pen pal relationship both of them have established. Neither is wise to the fact that they are falling for each other through the letters they exchange through the U.S. Postal Service.
 
If the plot seems somehow familiar, it’s because this simple conceit was the premise of two successful movie plots – “The Shop Around the Corner” in 1940 and “You’ve Got Mail” in 1998.
 
But the musical “She Loves Me” was inspired by a 1937 play titled “Parfumerie”by Miklos Laszlo.
 
The 1963 Broadway debut of “She Loves Me”with a book by Joe Masteroff, lyrics by Sheldon Harnick and music by Jerry Bock, was directed by Hal Prince. But a current production of this fun filled musical is currently on the boards of the Segerstrom Stage at Orange County’s acclaimed South Coast Repertory Theatre. 
 
Directed with elan by SCR’s artistic director, David Ivers, with exquisite musical direction (of an eight piece orchestra) by Gregg Coffin and gravity defying choreography by Jaclyn Miller, “She Loves Me” is not only a showcase for an extraordinary cast and ensemble, it is also a masterwork of stagecraft – including a rotating scenic design by Jo Winiarski; fetching costume designs by Alex Jaeger; perfect seasonal shadings by lighting designer Jaymi Lee Smith; and a pleasantly pitched sound design by Jeff Polunas. 
 
But it’s the players whose presence enliven the proscenium’s accoutrements to a degree that pleases and often amazes us in the audience. With nearly two-dozen songs divided into two-acts, the two-and-a-half hour show glides by on its witty script, clever musicality and committed cast members. 
 
The opening number “Good Morning, Good Day” is an upbeat way to showcase some of the musicals characters, including the formidable Gregory North as Mr. Maraczek; the charming Ricky Abilez as Arpad; the likable Matthew Henerson as Sipos; sexy Marlene Martinez as Ilona; Sam Ludwig as the mischievous Kodaly; and Brian Vaughn as Georg, the production’s putative protagonist. 
 
“She Loves Me’s” dramatic conflict is brought to full fruition by the show’s default antagonist Amalia – comically, yet sympathetically, portrayed by Erin Mackey whose soprano vocals in numbers such as “Vanilla Ice Cream” is sublime. 
 
Moreover, “She Loves Me” offers delightful ditties, such as “A Romantic Atmosphere,” which features an ensemble of dancers and serves as a tour de force for Danny Scheie as the head waiter and Jonathan Kim as the busboy in an upscale restaurant. 
 
”She Loves Me” is the most lovable show one is likely to see this year, if not this millennium. 
 
“She Loves Me” continues at South Coast Rep through Feb. 22 at 655 Town Center Drive, Costa Mesa.
 
Performances are Tuesday through Sundays. For reservations call (714) 708-5555. For online ticketing and further information visit scr.org. 
 
 

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