|Randy Scholz and Taryn Darr in She Loves Me (Tracy Martin)|
She Loves Me
Issaquah: through February 23, 2020
Everett: February 28 – March 22, 2020
A perfect music box of a musical with a cast to match. That’s what Village Theatre gives you with their production of She Loves Me!
The Sheldon Harnick lyrics are some of the very best in any musical and match Jerry Brock’s musical compositions like soft kid gloves. The book adaptation by Joe Masteroff of the short story about a Budapest couple who work together and don’t know they’re pen pals is just enough talking to keep everyone on the same page.
I have to opine that this musical is pretty much bullet-proof, so it’s hard to do it badly. Thank-fully, Karen Lund, usually directing both comedies and musicals at Taproot Theatre, inserts and pulls out many, many moments of fun. She and choreographer Scott Brateng also come up with more moments of choreography than many productions and that increases the delightful moments.
A super portrayal is talented Taryn Darr as the second-banana, the aroused Ilona whose body betrays her when music starts and the seductive song of bad-boy Steven Kodaly (Randy Scholz) lures her back to him. Her butt wiggle and circular shoulder spins are very funny.
A quick synopsis: In an old Hungarian parfumerie (perfume shop) in the 1930s, the owner Mr. Maracek (Eric Polani Jensen) is struggling to keep his staff and shop profitable. Georg Nowack (Eric Ankrim) is his loyal lieutenant and Ilona, Steven, and the lovable but craven Sipos (Mark Emerson) take care of customers. A bike messenger, Arpad (an adorable Rafael Molina), rounds out the staff.
Amalia Balash (Allison Standley) needs a job and shows her talent for selling “anything” to the delight of Maracek and the dismay of Georg. When she’s hired, Georg and she argue a lot. The audience thinks they hate each other. Both, however, are writing to a Dear Friend pen pal and they don’t know it’s each other!
As the seasons change, the Dear Friends are supposed to meet, but in a “charming café,” Georg sees Amalia and loses his nerve and stands her up. The second act redeems him and contains most of the best iconic songs.
Ensemble members Tony Lawson, Matthew Posner, Anasofia Gallegos, Cassi Q Kohl, Christian Quinto and Be Russell become the customers, passers-by and café inhabitants. While they, too, contribute funny bits, their characters are enhanced by the amazingly colorful, bedazzled and decorated costuming by Esther Garcia.
A serviceable moving set by Matthew Smucker could have been helped by better product on the store shelves and a more substantial way of portraying both the café and Amalia’s bedroom. Those moments were visually under-appealing.
The orchestrations were performed beautifully as led by music director R.J. Tancioco. There’s some tricky stuff in there.
The cast throws themselves into it and mines the script for jokes. Ankrim and Standley are well matched and Standley’s comic timing grows over the show to become fully evident at the top of Act 2 while looking for her right shoe.
I can only hope that you’ll fall as deeply in love with this musical as I have. You might even want to go home and look up the lyrics to notice, again, how completely they mesh and rhyme. Sure, this is a classic, but they really are not writing them much like they used to, and often it’s a shame.