BWW Review: SHE LOVES ME at Tyngsborough High School
When thinking of high school theatre productions, it is unlikely that an immersive dinner theatre production comes to mind. However, for Tyngsborough High School's theatre program, dinner theatre is an annual tradition the community holds near and dear to their hearts. Not only do family and friends flock to the Old Town Hall every year to see the production, but members of the community not directly connected to the program make an appearance year after year for a night of delectable food and an impeccable performance.
This year, the program is producing the Broadway hit SHE LOVES ME. Set in Germany in the mid-1930s, the show revolves around two members of a "lonely-hearts club" who have been anonymously writing letters to each other as they fall deeply in love. Georg is the awkward shop clerk at Maraczek's Parfumerie who is caught up in his "dear friend" from the letters, while Amalia is a former clerk at a recently closed parfumerie who is looking for a new job at Maraczek's. The two meet for the first time in person without knowing the other is who they are writing passionate letters to and almost instantly, they become infuriated with each other, setting a tone for their relationship at the shop. They agitate each other to no end while working together, yet without knowing, they compose each other loving letters. When the "dear friends" are set to meet in person, Georg learns who is truly behind the letters while Amalia is left in the dark, which is where their relationship in person begins to turn upwards, until the end of the show where both in person and in letters, the two are madly in love.
Amalia makes a radiant entrance in her first scene as she attempts to sell a music box without truly knowing what it is. Though her character is winging everything she does in the first scene, it is obvious actress Abby McIsaac is not. Her voice rivals the "voice of God" as she sings in her first solo "No More Candy" as she effortlessly floats between notes and never falters. When she opens her mouth, eyes are immediately drawn to her expressive face, whether singing a ballad such as "Will He Like Me?" or in high energy numbers such as "Where's My Shoe?". Even while her words are vile and her expressions reflecting exasperation in "Tango Tragique" her voice remains angelic. Amalia's character throughout the show is typically self-assured, but McIsaac lets her guard down beautifully in "Dear Friend" and her following scene as she attempts to recover from heartbreak, before picking herself back up again in "Vanilla Ice Cream".
As one of the protagonists in the story, Georg has many different relationships with many different characters throughout the show. Actor Jared LeMay successfully alternates between these characters, evident especially in the song "Three Letters" where he switches from a caring tone towards his "dear friend" in the letters, to immediately snapping out of it and into a tense yet professional brief conservation with his boss Mr. Maraczek, back to the headspace of writing the letter, to the annoyance of speaking in person with Amalia. The seamless transitions take a matter of seconds, yet has distinct differences in character. His acting also shines through his solo "Tonight At Eight" as his facial expressions and body movements perfectly encapsulates the panic of the music and the situation he is about to encounter (meeting his "dear friend" for the first time in person). However, after realizing who his "dear friend" is Amalia, he finds no issue in acting overly cocky in his teasing accusations of Amalia being apart of a lonely-hearts club. Yet upon the discovery that Amalia loves him, his confidence grows to a slightly different place in the title song of the show, where Georg suddenly becomes confident in the man he was both in the letters and in person.
One of Ilona's main character points is the conflict she had between whether or not she wants to be in a relationship with the inconsistent Kodaly; a conflict that is brought to light with the arrival of Amalia at Maraczek's shop. Throughout the show, Tara Pellitier lets the audience into Ilona's internal conflict. In "I Don't Know His Name", Pellitier first questions the nature of her relationship with Kodaly through a beautiful voice that works in harmony with McIsaac's. She also displays a relationship similar to ones of siblings with both Amalia and Georg, the latter having been established from the beginning of the show and the former being developed over time. In her solo "I Resolve", she starts obviously broken from the inconsistency of Kodaly, yet by the final note, she has gained a newfound confidence, as she convinces herself she deserves more than what Kodaly ever gave.
Throughout the show, Sipos is seen as a character who can easily be walked over. However, Nick Miceli expands the character in his solo "Perspective" as an uncle like figure to Georg. In the song, Miceli reveals the motivation Sipos has behind letting himself be walked on, which he does in order to keep his job. Through his facial and physical expression, he attempts to place his attitude onto Georg, and while it does not work in the show, it makes the audience question their own perspective on their behavior in their jobs.
Actors Chris Fournier (Maraczek) and Jared LeMay (Georg) show dramatic contrasts from the start of the show leading up to Georg being fired. In Maraczek's solo and the scene that follows, Fournier and LeMay parallel a loving father and son, with the former reminiscing on his early adulthood to the latter in an attempt to convince him to leave the bachelor lifestyle behind (a lifestyle Georg does not practice). Later in the show, their relationship grows heated and their interactions with each other makes it seem as though their initial relationship had never been established. Later, upon the realization of his and his wife's true relationship, Fournier is able to exhibit pure defeat as his character's whole life shatters before him.
In the show, Kodaly is a notorious flirt who causes much of the conflict in the show, and Peter Carranza brings Kodaly's flirtatious habits to life in the show-stopping number "Ilona". The physicality he brings to the role manages to convince both Ilona and the audience that Ilona is the only one he wishes to be with, yet he immediately turns around shortly after the applause and proves that to be false.
In the family-like unit established at Maraczek's Parfumerie, Arpad is the eager teenager ready to spring into adulthood. Cam Perrin captures this ideology, particularly in his solo "Try Me". In his attempts to convince Mr. Maraczek that he is ready to become a sales clerk instead of a delivery boy, Perrin makes the audience forget he is not actually Arpad attempting to make himself appear older. His constant movement makes Arpad's eagerness visible and the fact that he's thought about becoming a sales clerk countless time evident. Even when being granted the job as sales clerk, his childlike characteristics do not disappear as he enters his adult job.
In a principle heavy show, the ensemble takes the stage time they have and goes above and beyond what may be expected of them. As a typical day at work begins towards the beginning of the show, "Sounds While Selling" echoes as the life of shop clerks and customers at Maraczek's are explored. The scene features ensemble members Valentina Marin, Susanne Kruszkowski, and Amber Bean, who despite being given identical blocking, all shine as individuals characters in harmony with each other.
While not traditionally a role that steals the show, Mordy Vezina does as the head waiter, featured in the number "Romantic Atmosphere". He perfectly encapsulates the anxieties of attempting to keep the proper mood of a respectable restaurant. He sings his struggles to the nervous wreck of a waiter, played by Madi Center, who attempts to adhere to the regulations provided by the head waiter. In the dance break, through on beat choreography (by students Lily Panagopoulos and Hanna McDonald), the ensemble works collectively to display the struggles both waiters have to endure in order to keep the kooky crowd in line so all may enjoy their evening. Vezina's stage presence upon re-entrance, which cuts off the dance break with extravagant physicality, truly shows the annoyance he has with the crowd and the inability of his staff to keep it together.
"Twelve Days To Christmas" as is already perfectly encapsulates the stress of both shopping for Christmas and being an employee in a popular shop in the days leading up to Christmas (as I personally know having been both). The scene starts off in a calm manner which mirrors what a typical busy day in retail is like: slightly hectic, but manageable. By the last day before Christmas, the environment has completely changed into madness. The twelfth day to Christmas features two ensemble members reaching for the same gift at the same time but resolves it peacefully. By Christmas Eve, a similar exchange occurs, except it ends with a fight that reflects the stereotypes of Black Friday. The scene also features moments where the ensemble individually poses to the beat in a pose that reflects their characters in the moment. Similarly, before leaving the shop for the day, the actors on stage freeze in a tableau, capturing the essence of the shopping in the moment, which is the most effectively hilarious in the later days.
Overall, the show brings a beautiful romance from Budapest to a small New England town. The cast works in harmony with each other to put on a spectacular show for not only their family and peers, but other community members who look forward to the event annually. This show is not a show you want to miss, so if you're interested in purchasing tickets, please click here for more information. Tickets are available for Friday, January 26th, Saturday January 27th, both at 6:30pm, and Sunday January 28th at 3:30pm, all of which will be performed at Old Town Hall in Tyngsborough. The $47 charge includes dinner provided by Culinary Creations, including a dessert buffet. As well as a splendid night of theatre, you would also be doing a good deed by attending, as half of the profits from the show goes towards the education fund, which helps the school district purchase items such as laptops for classrooms. Once again, this is a show you do not want to miss, so grab some friends and go to the link to reserve a table!