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Colonial Players She Loves Me

By • Mar 31st, 2009 • Category: Reviews
She Loves Me
Colonial Players
Colonial Players Theater, Annapolis, MD
$20/$15 Seniors and Students
Playing through April 18th
Reviewed March 29th, 2009

She Loves Me is a musical with book by Joe Masteroff, music and lyrics by Jerry Brock and Sheldon Harnick. The 1963 musical is based on the Miklos Laszlo play The Parfumerie, which has had three successful film adaptations, The Shop Around the Corner, The Good Old Summertime and, most recently, You’ve Got Mail. She Loves Me earned Jack Cassidy his only Tony award, for Best Featured Actor in a Musical, one of five nominations the musical received that year.

An impressive array of talent brings She Loves Me to The Colonial Players’ stage in Annapolis. Together with Beth Terranova‘s masterful directing, Doug Dawson‘s musical direction and Darice Clewell‘s choreography, the show is certain to pack houses through its run.

But the real chemistry resides in the performances. Charming, lively and ultimately drawn to each other, the leads Georg Nowack (Nathan Bowen) as the shop’s second in command and Amalia Balash (Aimee Lambing), a hopeful and enterprising new employee, bring to the audience a witty and often contentious relationship driven (without knowing it) by anonymous letters to each other as Dear Friends.

These are first-rate performances as good as some professional shows I’ve seen, and they also include Ladislav Sipos (Danny Brooks), the clerk who knows his place, Ilona Ritter (Ashley Sanford), the shop girl who can’t quite resolve to look for a better relationship, Steven Kodaly (Ron Giddings), the slick two-timer with an axe to grind. In particular, Jim Reiter (playing Mr. Maraczek), and Roy Barbacow (as the Head Waiter) possess comic timing that takes their scenes from funny to hilarious.

Set in Queens, NY in the early forties, most of the action takes place in Maraczek’s parfumerie. Terranova, together with Dick Whaley, have designed a set that makes full and clever use of the space. Richard Koster‘s lighting enhances this space beautifully.

Costumes (Nancy Peth & Beth Terranova) are a perfect fit for the period. The overall attention to detail (right down to the paving stones in front of the shop) is truly impressive! (Don’t forget to look at the shop displays or down at the floor, designed by Heather Quinn, as you walk through the theatre.)

This terrifically entertaining community theatre production is as good as some of the professional performances I’ve seen in recent years. It was a pleasure to watch. If the audience was any indication, don’t wait to buy your tickets. You’ll be out of luck and you’ll have missed a fabulous piece of theatre!

The show was a little over 2 hours, thirty minutes, with a 15-minute intermission.

Director’s Notes

Anonymous Social Networking – Job Jitters – Courting Customers in a Depressed Economy

If that sounds like the story lineup on one of this week’s television news magazines, then perhaps it is a clue to why a story first dramatized in the 1930s retains its relevance today in the musical romance She Loves Me, a show consistently mentioned among the best American musicals.

The plot of She Loves Me (an often-told story most recently reincarnated as the 1998 Tom Hanks/Meg Ryan film You’ve Got Mail), is unapologetically about love – searching for it, courting it, losing it, finding it – classic themes that translate across time. She Loves Me explores the seemingly lost art of courtly letter-writing alongside the very current concept that you can be whoever you want to be in the anonymity of “postings”, be they letters, or messages in cyberspace. The “Lonely Hearts Club” of the show is alive and well in today’s internet world of eHarmony, Match.com and other social networking sites. And people always have and always will experience the urge to protect what they love, the hurt of betrayed love and the joyful discovery of new love. As critic Frank Rich wrote in his review of the 1993 Broadway revival of She Loves Me, “its unsentimental romantic emotions never age.”

But She Loves Me offers even more for those who enjoy exploring beneath the surface: a glimpse of a depressed economy when businesses were closing, people were afraid of losing their jobs and customers who still had cash to spend were treated like royalty – a situation that influences several critical plot points. While there are references throughout the show that remind the viewer of the story’s roots in pre-WWII Eastern Europe, I think everyone in the audience can filter the circumstances of this story through their own time and place references. In my mind – and production concept – it is Queens, NY in the early 1940s (our own pre-war years). It could just as easily be Anywhere, USA in 2009 as we experience some of the same economic and political realities today – and look for respite in basic goodness and civility.

Before this musical emerged in 1963, Miklos Laszlo’s original 1937 play The Parfumerie had been filmed twice: The Shop Around the Corner with Jimmy Stewart and Margaret Sullivan (1940) and In the Good Old Summertime with Judy Garland and Van Johnson (1949). “There was no special need for a stage musical,” Peter Bergman wrote in a review of a recent production, “but when this show opened, there was a great need for a sentimental throwback to former days.” Lyricist Sheldon Harnick wrote in Playbill magazine, “People now seem to feel She Loves Me has something to say about humanity, about decency – in the light of everything that’s now happening in Eastern Europe.” And in the U.S., Peter Bergman notes, “The country was engaged in the … struggles of the Vietnam War; the communist threat was at our doorway again; people were concerned about the future as they hadn’t been since the end of World War II. There was a need for sentiment and heart and humanity finding its core, locating the belief that love could set things in motion for good. That was the strength of this show, and … it still maintains its optimism and its sense of that importance of love. It is right on target for today.”

And so it remains – still relevant, and still a very fine American Musical.

Cast

  • Arpad Laszlo: Alex Foley
  • Ladislav Sipos: Danny Brooks
  • Ilona Ritter: Ashley Sanford
  • Steven Kodaly: Ron Giddings
  • Georg Nowack: Nathan Bowen
  • Mr. Maraczek: Jim Reiter
  • Amalia Balash: Aimee Lambing
  • Detective Keller: Mark Dawson
  • Waiter/Caroler: Roy Barbacow
  • Ensemble:
    • Arpad’s Friend, Waitress, Red Cross Volunteer: Christina Bartone
    • Newsstand Attendant, Cafe Patron, Christmas Shopper: Joey Conway
    • Customer, Caroler: Josette Dubois
    • Customer, Christmas Shopper: Rebecca Feibel
    • Customer, Cafe Patron, Caroler: Brenda Garcia
    • Arpad’s Friend, Busboy: Ethan Goldberg
    • Cafe Patron, Christmas Shopper: Theresa Olsen
    • Customer, Cafe Patron, Caroler, Paul: Neil Smith

Crew:

  • Director: Beth Terranova
  • Musical Director: Doug Dawson
  • Choreographer: Darice Clewell
  • Production Manager: Dottie Meggers
  • Stage Manager: Sarah Forman
  • Stage Crew: Christina Bergeron, Christina McAlpine, Jean Mincher
  • Set Design: Beth Terranova, Dick Whaley
  • Lead Carpenter: Dick Whaley
  • Carpenters: Jim Robinson, Mark Whaley, Ted Yablonski
  • Floor Design: Heather Quinn
  • Set Painting: Mary Rogers Koster, Beth Terranova, Heather Quinn, Carol Youmans, Dick Whaley
  • Set Decoration: Carol Youmans, Angie Dey, Beth Terranova
  • Lighting Design: Richard Koster
  • Lighting Assistant: Ryan Harrison
  • Lighting Technicians: Terry Avrill, Drea Elward, Ryan Harrison
  • Music Engineer: Keith Norris
  • Sound Engineer: Wes Bedsworth
  • Sound Technician: Doug Dawson
  • Costume Design: Nancy Peth, Beth Terranova
  • Properties Design: JoAnn Gidos, Grace Bumgardner
  • Production Consultant: JoAnn Gidos
  • Rehearsal Pianist: Mike Monda
  • Rehearsal Assistants: Drea Elward, Theresa Olson
  • Play Consultant: Beverly Hill van Joolen
  • Photography: Colburn Images
  • Program Editor: Tom Stuckey
  • Lobby Display: Mary Rogers Koster, Beverly Hill van Joolen

Orchestra:

  • Mark Dawson, Percussion
  • Mike Monda, Clarinet
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is founder and Artistic Director of OutOftheBlackBox Theatre Company (O2B2) and General Manager of the Greenbelt Arts Center. Since 2006 Betsy has worked as a director, producer, designer and more. Betsy has also worked with Washington Revels, Arena Stage, the now-defunct Harlequin Dinner Theatre and with community theatre companies both in Maryland and in upstate New York. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Technical Theatre from SUNY New Paltz. Through Hawkeswood Productions, Betsy produces archival performance videos and YouTube highlight spots.

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