Director Danielle Howard Returns to Hackmatack for Season's First Show SHE LOVES ME

Director Danielle Howard Returns to Hackmatack for Season's First Show SHE LOVES MEWhen Danielle Howard of Dover heard that Hackmatack Playhouse was producing "She Loves Me" this summer, she immediately called to see if the Berwick summer theater needed a director for this 1963 musical that is one of her favorites.

"I adore that show," said Howard. "It has wonderful characters, a gorgeous score and there aren't a lot classic romantic comedies."

As it happened, Hackmatack's artistic director, Crystal Lisbon, was about to ask Howard if she wanted to direct this critically acclaimed musical set in a Hungarian gift shop. Lisbon knew Howard years ago working together at Hackmatack and Rochester Opera House and she believed that Danielle would make this tangled tale of love come alive for the summer stock audience.

"Danielle is a director with a knack for exploring characters, and delving into the script in a way that truly draws the audience into the story," said Lisbon. "I knew she would effortlessly take 'She Loves Me' to the next level, making an already delightful script and score even more timeless."

And thus, 15 years since she last worked at the Berwick theater, Howard returned to direct one of her favorite all time shows, which will open Friday, June 16 at Hackmatack.

"She Loves Me," the Broadway production first produced in 1963, is based on "Parfumerie," a 1936 Hungarian play by Miklós László. This original script inspired several other renditions, including a 1940 movie, "The Shop Around the Corner," starring James Stewart and Margaret Sullavan, followed by the 1949 screen musical version "In the Good Old Summertime," with Judy Garland, and in 1998 Nora Ephron movie "You've Got Mail," with Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan.

Without any big show-stopping dance numbers this musical is not widely known, but those who know it love it, Howard said. The story, based in a shop in Budapest, involves two people who have a contentious relationship in person, but fall in love on paper, not realizing who they are falling in love with.

"You just fall in love with all the characters," said Howard on a recent windy Sunday during a break from rehearsal. Beside her sat several members of the cast, then in their second week of rehearsal.
Cast members began rehearsing May 26 and they will be rehearsing six out of seven days in the short period before opening. When they began, the thermometer was at 40 degrees fahrenheit. They expect they may well be performing when the mercury tops 80, if not 90 degrees.

Cast members said the fast pace of the rehearsal schedule and the charm of performing in a barn is part of Hackmatack's appeal.

"The show has a lot quicker of a pace, but it keeps you in the mindset," said Marcus Provost of Winchendon, Mass., who plays the lead role of George Nowak .

"Ive never worked this face-paced environment before but in a lot of ways thats really really fun," agreed Mike Buck, a recent UNH grad from Southboro, Mass., who is playing Ladislave Sipos.

"And the barn theater is beautiful to work in," Provost added.

Besides loving the show, Howard is thrilled to be working with a number of actors who she knows from the UNH theater department. A graduate of the UNH music department with a minor in theater, Howard left the area in 2000 to get a graduate degree in directing from Indiana University. She returned in 2010 when her husband, John Berst, took a job at UNH as director of musical theater.

"It feels like coming home," she said.

"She Loves Me" will run two weekends, including shows 8 pm June 16 and 17, as well as June 21 to 24 and a 2 pm matinee Thursday, June 22. For more information call 207-698-1807 or go to www.hackmatack.org.

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