BWW Review: SHE LOVES ME at Candlelight Music Theatre
There's a reason that the vast majority of parishioners to musical theatre had not seen SHE LOVES ME prior, including Aisle Say. The show, while billed as charming and Christmas seasonal, has as much coherence as do tweets from our esteemed Tweeter in Chief. The marketing says "It's a feel-good show that offers enough comedy and sweet romance to warm the heart without risking a sentimental overdose". For Aisle Say, It's like NutraSweet, an artificial sweetener.
This is not to say that the Candlelight actors did not play it straight and did not give their all, as they invariably do. It's just the musical is dysfunctional in its essence. To start with; In two film takeoffs from the 1937 Hungarian play Parfumerie, 1949's IN THE GOOD OLD SUMMERTIME with Garland and Van Johnson and in the 1998 YOU'VE GOT MAIL with Hanks and Ryan, the settings were in Chicago and NY respectively. The stage production is in Hungary, with Hungarian names. This throws the audience off from the get go. It should have been Anglicized in character names and location to like, I dunno, Wilmington?
One would expect more drama, tension and angst from writer Joe Masteroff (CABARET) and lyricist Sheldon Harnick and composer Jerry Bock (FIDDLER). The songs - which appeared out of nowhere with little plot or dialogue set-up - defined unmemorable, (aside from perhaps the title tune).
Newcomer to Candlelight leading lady Amalia (Nicole Renna) has a pristine, near operatic voice. Her solo "Will He Like Me" was gorgeous. Her grace and charm consistently won over the opening night audience, even with the totally ridiculous "Where's My Shoe", followed by the equally quixotic "Vanilla Ice Cream". Her 'future' love interest Jared Calhoun (Georg) unveiled a lovely voice as well in the duet "Three Letters". The two actors exhibited chemistry during Act I, precipitating the consummated relationship in Act II.
Ladislav (Max Redman) displayed yeoman acting/singing chops in "Perspective", a very difficult song.
Arpad (Jacob Schrimpf) has a charismatic personality. Aisle Say suggests he should seek hither and yon the next audition as J. Pierrepont Finch in HOW TO SUCCEED. The dude would be a natural. Paul McElwee (Maraczek) has a strong singing voice and strength of character. His Hungarian accent was point perfect. The question remains, though, why Maraczek was the only one WITH an accent. Director Renee Dobson should have demanded the entire troupe speak with accents or none at all.
Another Candlelight first timer is Andy Spinosi (Kodaly), the villain, the devilish chaser of skirts. His program bio suggests quite a range of characters. His one solo "Grand Knowing You" blazed a distinctive voice with an impressive octave range. One hopes he will return to Candlelight soon with a larger role.
The choreography (not in excess) was underwhelming; more stage movement than anything else - aside from the pie scene - created by assistant choreographer, ensemble member AND our effervescent server, Julianna Babb.
Consummate character actress Tori Healy (Ilona) does a terrific job in selling "A Trip To The Library", yet another song that reminds me of the comment in the movie Amadeus from the King to Mozart, 'too many notes'. In this case, too many songs that provide neither dialectic nor progression to the plot.
Jeff Reim's set design was quite clever. Initially we see the interior of the parfumerie. Then, the two sides of the expansive set marry seamlessly to create its exterior.
Through December 23. CandlelightTheatre 302.475.2313
Next Up: GUYS AND D0LLS Jan 19