Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Solid production of "She Loves Me" at SMT - a perfect musical

Dustyn Moir and Doug Knoop look on as Laura Medford teases Brian Lange in She Loves Me (Jeff Carpenter)
She Loves Me
Seattle Musical Theatre
Through December 20, 2015

The musical She Loves Me, music by Jerry Brock, lyrics by Sheldon Harnick, book by Joe Masteroff, is one of the most perfect musicals ever, to me. It has a smallish cast, a fun and charismatic storyline, and killer songs. The songs, lyrics especially, are little bits of brilliance. Pretty much all of them!

You know the story if you’ve seen the old movie, The Shop Around the Corner, or the new movie, You’ve Got Mail: two people who work together and seem to hate each other have pen pals they think they love who turn out to be each other. Watching them fall in love with each other is a lot of fun.

The musical is done here every so often and the current production is at Seattle Musical Theatre. Directed by Alan Wilkie, it sports a cast of very good singers, which is great for the somewhat tricky music. A few of them are pretty new to the Seattle musical scene, which is always fun to discover.

The main roles of Georg and Amalia are ably managed by Brian Lange and newcomer Laura Medford. Lange is a local veteran and has all the right chops for the role. He’s got great comic instincts and is also a good actor and this role calls for both. Medford plunges in with enthusiasm with a lovely soprano. (She needs to be a bit careful of going off the vocal rails and getting a little screechy when she’s rushed.)

Supporting players in the parfumerie (this is set in Budapest in the 1930s) are the owner (a lovely turn by Bill Higham), an unassuming clerk (Doug Knoop), a scheming clerk (newcomer Paul Gauger with a terrific voice), the other female clerk (Jorie Jones), and a bike messenger (funny standout Dustyn Moir). All contribute well and each gets his or her own great song to sing.

The ensemble singers are also all solid singers with some tricky songs to sing. They do most of the choreography created by Taylor Davis, which ties in amusing movement to augment the story comedy.

The orchestra is larger than many SMT shows and has a particularly talented violin section! Music-directed by Josh Zimmerman, they sound great. Usually, I end up feeling frustrated by how loud the music is compared to the singers. On this occasion, the musicians were way too muted! I even think the cast had a hard time hearing them to stay on beat and in tune. The music for this show is terrific and the orchestration deserves to be heard in a bigger way.

This is a solidly good production. However, there is a certain amount of restraint in it that is a bit puzzling. Everyone feels careful. The directing seems to have been more “presentational” (facing the audience) than interactive on stage, and that undercuts the relationships a bit.

I wish the actors would demonstrate that they’re having more fun on stage. Moir, in particular, seems to get that. Let go, have fun! You’re in a great show. If you’re having fun, it will translate to the audience and we will have more fun, too.

For more information, go to www.seattlemusicaltheatre.org or call 206-363-2809.