Roundabout Theatre Company
Todd Haimes, Artistic Director
Harold Wolpert, Managing Director
Julia C. Levy, Executive Director
Sydney Beers, General Manager
Laura Benanti, Zachary Levi, Gavin Creel
Byron Jennings, Michael McGrath
She Loves Me
(She Loves Me Website)
Book by Joe Masteroff
Music by Jerry Bock
Lyrics by Sheldon Harnick
based on a play by Miklós László
Directed by Scott Ellis
Choreography by Warren Carlyle
Music Direction by Paul Gemignani
Peter Bartlett, Nicholas Barasch
And an ensemble of Actors/Singers/Dancers
254 West 54th Street
Set Design: David Rockwell
Costume Design: Jeff Mahshie
Lighting Design: Donald Holder
Sound Design: John Weston
Orchestrations: Larry Hochman
Dance Arrangements & Incidental Music: David Krane
Hair & Wig Design: David Brian Brown
Make-up Design: Christian McCulloch
Production Stage Manager: Scott Taylor Rollison
Casting: Jim Carnahan CSA &Stephen Kopel, CSA
Press Representative: Polk & Co.
Technical Supervisor: Steve Beers
Director of Marketing & Audience Development: Robert Sweibel
Founding Director: Gene Feist
Director of Development: Lynne Guggenheim Gregory
Adams Associate Artistic Director: Scott Ellis
Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
March 23, 2016 Matinee
With lilting, luscious melodies, She Loves Me, set in a 1934 parfumerie in Budapest, draws the audience into the most magnificent, dazzling scenic design by David Rockwell, with rows upon rows of illuminated perfume bottles in exotic shapes and varied sizes, along with boxes of soaps, creams, lotions, and a multitude of ribbons. To add to the festive aura, summer, then autumn scenes turn to Christmastime, and the show becomes enhanced with holiday trees, wreaths, bright bulbs, and songs of cheer. The show’s book, by Joe Masteroff, is based on a 1937 play by Miklós László, “Illatszertár”, also known as “Parfumerie”, which inspired the 1940 Ernst Lubitsch film, “The Shop Around the Corner”. In 1949, the play was again adapted for a musical show, In the Good Old Summertime, before Masteroff’s book was developed by Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harnick in 1963 for the Broadway show, She Loves Me. Roundabout Theatre Company’s current production is sparkling and sumptuous, with the crème de la crème of a cast.
Mr. Maraczek (a charismatic Byron Jennings), proprietor of the expansive parfumerie, has been edgy of late, suspecting his assistant store manager, Georg Nowack (a dynamic Zachary Levi), of having an affair with his offstage wife. Au contraire, Georg has been amorously writing to a mystery woman through a vintage lonely hearts group and plans to meet her, when the holidays arrive. Amalia Balash (a spirited Laura Benanti), a new salesperson at the parfumerie, who earned her position by selling a lovely little music box to a customer on the spot, is also writing to a mystery man, whom she plans to meet in December. And, there you have the gist of yet another incarnation of the Miklós László play, Nora Ephron’s 1998 screenplay for “You’ve Got Mail”. Amalia’s co-worker, Ilona Ritter (a sultry, split-dancing Jane Krakowski), is a mistress of manager, Steven Kodaly (a conniving Gavin Creel), who’s actually a lover of another mystery woman, and so on. A collection of coincidences, confidences, and charades drive story and song. Ladislav Sipos (a charming, nervous, and rumpled Michael McGrath) is a longtime, dedicated salesman at the shop, and Arpad Laszlo (an energized, youthful Nicholas Barasch) is a speedy delivery boy and wannabe salesman. A Headwaiter (a haughty Peter Bartlett) is caught up in the mystery rendezvous, and his Busboy (a rhythmic Michael Fatica) morphs into a tanguero.
Within Maraczek’s parfumerie, the individual characters bond and bicker, often in tuneful pathos. Maraczek’s “Days Gone By” showcases a seasoned Mr. Jennings, Georg’s (Mr. Levi) “She Loves Me, the title tune, is yearning and resonant, Amalia’s (Ms. Benanti) “Vanilla Ice Cream” is a brilliant showstopper, Ilona’s (Ms. Krakowski) “I Resolve” is sexy and determined, Kodaly’s (Mr. Creel) “Ilona” is entertaining and magnetic, Sipos’ (Mr. McGrath) “Perspective” is poignant, and Laszlo’s (Mr. Barasch) “Try Me” is imbued with fervor. The ensemble, as store customers, restaurant workers and diners, passers-by in the Budapest streets, and extra store staff, is outstanding in tune and dance. In fact, Warren Carlyle’s choreography is mesmerizing and, once again, monumental, with dance quotes from his Cotton Club Parade. Scott Ellis’ direction keeps the momentum fluid and captivating, with the cast exuding compelling personas. Jeff Mahshie’s costumes are classy and oft confectionary, like candy-cane pink. Donald Holder’s lighting is warm, as is Jon Weston’s sound.
Among the cast, I was especially struck by Ms. Krakowski’s vibrant ebullience and vocals that remained elegant and inviting throughout. Mr. Creel’s Kodaly, as well, could chew the candy-colored scenery with panache. Paul Gemignani’s musical direction kept solo and ensemble numbers vivacious, especially in the upbeat, musical refrains of “Good Morning, Good Day”, and in the restaurant tango interlude. Kudos to Roundabout Theatre Company for reviving this timeless musical, and kudos to Sheldon Harnick, who continues to consult on his shows, to this day.