Aurora Players closes their 2018 season with one of the few pieces from the Broadway canon that passed through four layers of source material to come to fruition. “She Loves Me” is a 1963 musical based on the 1949 musical/film “In the Good Old Summertime,” which is based on the 1940 Jimmy Stewart film “The Shop Around the Corner,” which is based on the 1937 play “Parfumerie” by Hungarian playwright Miklos Laszio. Oh, and as you’ll probably realize within the first minutes of the show, “She Loves Me” is the source material for the popular 1998 romcom “You’ve Got Mail” featuring Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks. Did you follow all that?
. . .fun, bouncy, and warm-hearted musical.
Perhaps this story has been reproduced, replicated, and reinterpreted so many times BECAUSE IT’S JUST SO DARN FUN. “She Loves Me,” written by Joe Masteroff, Sheldon Harnick, and Jerry Bock, follows Amalia (Sarah Blewett) and Georg (Joe Spahn), two feuding clerks in a European parfumerie during the 1930s who secretly find solace in their anonymous romantic pen pals, little knowing their respective correspondents are actually each other. Both George and Amalia are harmlessly less-than-honest about their true selves in the letters they write to each other; for you Millennials, think of Georg and Amalia as the original catfish (for you non-Millennials, Google it). The show also features several sub-plots, including the parfumerie’s Manager Mr. Maraczek (Michael Starzynski) and his mysterious mistrust of and aggression towards Georg; the on-the-downlow relationship between fellow parfumerie employees Mr. Kodalay (Brandon Czerwinski) and Ms. Ritter (Rebecca Runge); the delivery boy Arpad (Finn Lasch) and his strong desire to move onto the parfumerie sales floor; and Mr. Sipos (Jason Gonser)’s crippling lack of a backbone.
“She Loves Me” features wonderful individual acting and vocal performances from all the leads, particularly Michael Starzynski and Sarah Blewett. The set design of Mr. Maraczek’s shop, where most of the story takes place, is beautifully designed. The real crowning jewels of this show, however, are the large song-and-dance numbers that aren’t really that integral to the narrative, but are tremendously fun to both watch and listen to. I’m thinking specifically of “A Romantic Atmosphere”, which is performed by the waiters in the café where the two secret correspondents are soon to meet, and “Twelve Days to Christmas.” And the best moment of the show? When, to signal to the audience that the season has changed to autumn, ensemble member Michael Breen walks on stage, drops a handful of leaves onto Georg’s head, and promptly walks off. I cannot stress how hard this made me laugh. What a fantastically self-aware bit of theatrical comedy.
Now, the opening night of She Loves Me wasn’t without the common opening night community theatre hiccups, including a few scene changes that lasted too long, a couple dropped lines, and the occasional flubbed entrance from the pit band. But the good heavily outweighed the bad in this fun, bouncy, and warm-hearted musical.
First letters, then email…perhaps the next iteration of this story will feature an unlikely romance that happens via Tinder. “You’ve Swiped Right?” You saw it here first folks.
Running Time: 2 Hours 30 minutes with one 15-minute intermission.
“She Loves Me” is playing at Aurora Players’ Roycroft Pavilion until October 27. For tickets and more information, click here.
Categories: Colin Fleming-Stumpf Reviews