She Loves Me
Book by Joe Masteroff. Lyrics by Sheldon Harnick. Music by Jerry Bock.
Directed by John Saunders. Reviewed by J. Peter Bergman.
"Then, as if it isn't bad enough a violin starts to play. . ."
There are basically three kinds of love stories in the musical theater: Two people find true love; two people find love intolerable and it fails; two people find love in spite of an existing spouse. "She Loves Me" present all three in one perfect package. One couple, in a love affair cannot make it work for a variety of reasons but primarily because he is, in reality, a cad. One couple part when a manipulator comes between them and one of them prefers the newcomer over the spouse. One couple is already in love when they first meet, but they don't know it, don't recognize each other for a long while. In the time it takes to tell this series of stories a lot of wonderful music, witty and wise songs, are sung and danced and the changing of partners rivals the complications in Shakespeare's best plays. For one couple there is a very happy ending. For one there are consequences that could lead to joy and commercial success and for the third there is the recognition that youth might lead to an eventual happy continuation of what is truly best. This may not be the most common explanation of the plot of this show, but it works for me as I hope it will for you. Certainly director John Saunders' vision of "She Loves Me" made me think along these lines and that is new news. I never saw it this way before and I have been watching and listening to this musical since 1964.
Four clerks in Maraczek's Perfumerie live their individual philosophies. Steven Kodaly believes in his romantic sensuality and its power to persuade. Ladislav Sipos holds fast to his never make waves and you won't get carried away by them concept. Ilona Ritter relies on her belief that allure is all a woman needs to find happiness. Georg Nowack sets his future course on a get to know a person through intellectual pursuits and you cannot miss your opportunity for true love idea. Into their midst comes Amalia Balash whose sentiments align with those of Georg, but they do not get along at all. Every element of my three forms of love are on stage and ready to play; the stakes are happiness; the songs make them worth it.
Andrew Burton Kelley as Steven Kodaly sings "Goodbye";
photo: Ann Kielbasa
Anthony Velez as Arpad Laszlo; Photo: Ann Kielbasa
Only the delivery boy, Arpad. pays no attention to love. He is more obsessed with bettering himself and becoming a clerk also. He is perceptive, however, and notes Ilona's affair with Kodaly. Anthony Velez plays Arpad and does a fine job in the role giving the boy's virginal qualities a wonderful semi-passivity.
Playing the opposite end of the human spectrum is the shop-owner, Mt. Maraczek, played with integrity and charm by Gabe Belyeu. The man is in love with, in equal parts, his beautiful younger wife and his memories of a jaunty, adventurous youth, a spirit he has never lost. Even his morbid disenchantment doesn't last in this show and he literallly picks himself up, brushes himself off and starts all over again, taking Arpad under his wing. The two men make a lovely couple for a Christmas eve dinner. Belyeu plays kind and plays vindictive with the same sort of honesty and he gives Maraczek a full-bodied honesty that is refreshing to see.
The two women in the show are very different from each other. Ledford's Ilona, a sassy broad, is initially content with her cad of a boyfriend. Later, after A trip to the Library, she happily trades cad for optometrist and settles into a life of quiet happiness. Ledford has a flair for comedy and makes the most of it.
Amalia lives in a dream-state where the man she loves will keep her on her literary toes. The man she gets may well do that, but he will also keep her human needs in front of her intellectual ones. Murphy has a gorgeous soprano voice which thrills the ears and the heart equally. She makes her often irritable and irritating character absolutely appealing. Her interplay with Kylan Ross as the waiter is perfect and he does the fussy man justice from his first violin entrance to his kicky final exit.
Erin Spears Ledford as Ilona and Kelly Gabrielle Murphy as Amalia;
Photo: Ann Kielbasa .
Kelly Gabrielle Murphy as Amalia and Xander James as Georg; Photo: Ann Kielbasa