Tuesday, February 5, 2008

A She Loves Me review

ICCT - If you’ve ever had co-workers who dated, or dated a co-worker yourself, you know that the workplace drama can be bitter, even vitriolic, as well as aggravating, frustrating, and demeaning—and of course, very very funny. It is this kind of humor that drives Bock and Harnick’s musical She Loves Me.

If you’re familiar with the 1940 film The Shop Around the Corner (or the 1998 electronic-age update, You’ve Got Mail!), you know the plot: a clerk (Georg Nowack, portrayed by Jon Meadows) has his simple life turned upside down when a disagreeable yet charming young woman (Amalia Balash, portrayed by Megan Sands) takes a job at his shop. Their relationship is complicated by the fact that they have already met, in a sense: these two rivals have been communicating anonymously through letters, and they plan to meet for a blind date soon!

The show moves forward with the typical romantic comedy fare: the two write gushing unsigned love letters to each other after work, while getting in spats to rival Benedick and Beatrice the next day. As it goes on, life at the shop is dominated by the drama, at it is only too obvious what is going on. "They like each other," the clerk Sipos tells Arpad the delivery boy. "Then why don’t we tell them?" The boy replies.

The plot is familiar, perhaps to a fault. The musical is based on the obscure play Parfumerie by Hungarian playwright Miklos Laszlo. The adaptation is faithful but seems to suffer in technique. While Bock and Harnick are certainly competent composers, this piece has none of the magic and passion of Fiddler on the Roof. It starts very slowly and is full of song-and-dance numbers that do nothing to move the plot. It does, however, have a real touch of humanity and charm, and that is where this production shined.

I’m always pleased to find good acting in a musical; so often it’s overlooked. Jon Meadows, who plays Georg, is of course handsome and witty and has a wonderful voice, but his real strength is in his honesty. The character of Georg is believable and inspires a lot of empathy. There is a real connection with his costar Megan Sands (who also has an impressive voice). The supporting cast is solid as well. Zakary Morton is amusingly sleazy as the womanizing Kodaly, and Nora Scherschel is hilarious as the scorned Ilona. And everyone sounds great - the leads, the supporting cast, ensemble and orchestra.

I wouldn’t look for any life-changing moments. This is a light-hearted musical, and it’s basically a lot of fun. But if you’re looking for something to make you laugh and smile and feel like dancing, this is the show to go see. Bring a lover, or a co-worker...or both.

--James Trainor

James recently graduated from Cornell College with a Bachelor of Special Studies in English and Theater. He has also acted and directed for Stage Left Theater in Cedar Rapids, and is currently preparing to direct Flu Season there in March.

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