Los Angeles Theater Preview: SHE LOVES ME (Musical Theatre West in Long Beach)

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by Tony Frankel on November 19, 2016

in Theater-Los Angeles


I’ll be the first to admit that it may be impossible to create a bad production of the 1963 jewel-box musical She Loves Me. This perfect show, based on the 1937 play Parfumerie by Miklós László, is so resplendent, so charming, and so well-constructed that a 2011 gathering of literati for New York Magazine deemed it one of the best musicals ever written. This must-see, beguiling, gem of a chamber musical will leave you giddy with love, almost as if you gorged on sweet confections but magically had neither stomach ills nor toothache (it has been referred to as the “Ice Cream Musical” after a musical number made famous by original star Barbara Cook).

she-loves-me-posterIt doesn’t take much imagination to know that Musical Theatre West’s upcoming one-night only concert version of She Loves Me will be a knockout considering the magic they’ve created with “problematic” musicals such as Where’s Charley? and Busker Alley. MTW has proved time and again that they know how to enhance the golden nuggets so that any slag is rendered unnoticeable. And there’s not a drop of slag in She Loves Me, which plays Saturday, December 3, 2016 at 7:00.

I can understand why you hear about a “Staged Reading” and want to bolt in the opposite direction. Don’t let that title fool you. Indeed, in the last year, some of the best nights in the theater are found at these events. Especially with MTW’s Reiner Staged Reading Series, which offers these one-night only concerts of rarely-seen musicals (well, mostly; She Loves Me just finished a Broadway run) with astounding performers, a full live orchestra provided by Los Angeles Musicians Collective, and movement. You won’t even notice the minimal costumes, no sets, and that scripts are in hand for the dialogue (an Equity rule).

Amalia and Georg, employees at Maraczek’s 1930’s Hungarian parfumerie, take an immediate dislike to each other. After work, they find solace in writing to their respective lonely-hearts-club pen pals. Of course, neither suspects that the person they love on paper is the same person they detest on the job. If the story sounds familiar already, you may know it from the film adaptations of the play: The Shop Around the Corner (1940), In the Good Old Summertime (1949), and You’ve Got Mail (1998).

Musical Theatre West LOGOShe Loves Me (Sheldon Harnick: lyrics, Jerry Bock: music) contains numbers which not only feed the plot, but are character-driven as well. All of the co-worker characters at the Parfumerie get a chance to shine. (It is no accident that the following year (1964) Harnick & Bock would premiere a little thing called Fiddler on the Roof  and bookwriter Joe Masteroff’s next project was another little thing called Cabaret.)

Directed by David Lamoureux (who also plays Georg), the She Loves Me cast includes Jill Van Velzer (MTW’s On the Twentieth Century) as Amalia Balash; Norman Large (B’way: The Phantom of the Opera, The Woman in White) as the Parfumerie owner Zoltan Maraczek; Julie Cardia (MTW’s Memphis) as Ilona Ritter, a clerk with man problems; Zachary Ford (who has bowled me away in everything he’s done) as Steven Kodaly, a lothario who has eyes on Miss Ritter; Bryan Dobson (MTW’s Li’l Abner) as Ladislav Sipos, a clerk who chooses ulcers over unemployment; and Connor Marsh (Regional: Marry Me a Little, Titanic) as Arpad Laszlo, a teenage delivery boy. Included in the ensemble are Carlin Castellano, Jackie Cox, Lisa Dyson, James Gruessing and Marc Montminy.

MTW’s concerts have been conistently enjoyable, and She Loves Me will be no exception. And the tickets are only 27 bucks, so there’s no excuse to miss this gem. And take note of the new location this season–the Beverly O’Neill Theatre on Ocean Blvd. at the Long Beach Convention and Entertainment Center. Also note the EARLY START TIME of 7:00pm.

She Loves Me
Musical Theatre West
part of the Reiner Staged Reading Series
produced by Michael Betts and David Lamoureux
Beverly O’Neill Theatre at the Long Beach Convention and Entertainment Center
300 East Ocean Boulevard in Long Beach
Saturday, December 3, 2016 at 7:00
for tickets (only 27 bucks!), call 562.856.1999 ext. 4 or visit MTW

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