BWW Review: SHE LOVES ME at Elmwood Playhouse, Nyack, N.Y.

BWW Review: SHE LOVES ME at Elmwood Playhouse, Nyack, N.Y.

Ironically, Miklos Laszlo's 1937 play "Parfumerie" was not produced in the United States until 2009. Yet that did not stop the Hungarian hit from becoming the inspiration for a whole host of American films, plays and musicals: first the 1940 film, "The Shop Around the Corner" with James Stewart and Margaret Sullivan, then in 1949 as "In the Good Old Summertime" with Judy Garland and Van Johnson, then in 1998 as "You've Got Mail," with Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan. It also inspired the 1964 musical by Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harnick, (the team behind "Fiddler on the Roof").

Even for 1964, The story is old-fashioned, the music is old-fashioned, and the mood is old-fashioned, and yet everything about it is absolutely delightful. In the days before E-Harmony, J-Date and Tinder, there were lonely hearts clubs, and Amalia (Daniele Hager) and Georg (Chad Paul Hudson) make a love connection through a lonely-hearts club, writing erudite letters about art and literature to one another. Little did they know that when they finally meet in person-both unaware they are meeting their paramours - they immediately hate each other.

BWW Review: SHE LOVES ME at Elmwood Playhouse, Nyack, N.Y.When Amalia enters Maraczek's Parfumerie (where Georg works as a clerk) searching for a job, Georg is immediately rude and dismissive. But after she proves herself to the shop's owner - by selling a musical cigarette box as a musical candy box (and inadvertently causes Georg to lose a bet with the shop owner!) Amalia finds herself hired. But, of course, Georg takes an immediate disliking to her.

Amalia is driven but dreamy, as she rhapsodizes about her "Dear Friend" with whom she is desperately in love, even though she's never met him. Hager possesses a radiant voice, and rock solid, almost operatic technique, which she puts to good use in the show's deceptively difficult numbers. Her Amalia is alternately annoyingly self-confident, then an emotional wreck. She brings an adorable sense of desperation to Amalia's plight and a tender, tug-at-the-heartstrings emotion to songs such as "Dear Friend." Then a crazy neurotic energy to the show's big number "Vanilla Ice Cream" - boasting a bell-like high B-flat at its conclusion.

Chad Paul Hudson's Georg appropriately annoying at first, trying hard to make everyone happy, while dealing with shop owner's constant barking at him. George evolves as the story progresses, into a more likeable and charming young fella, and Hudson is great over-the-top fun revealing Georg's softer more vulnerable side.

The supporting cast is uniformly superb. Bridget Fenton Clark and Jon Huston are absolutely hilarious as Georg's comrades at Maraczek's. Fenton Clark's Ilona has a thing, it seems, for guys whom anyone else could see are jerks from a mile away. Huston, as Kodaly, is brilliantly smarmy and charming right down to the tilted fedora and the pencil thin mustache. Fenton Clark and Huston get most of the best lines in the show and the freedom to be way over the top - roles which they play to the hilt. Truth be told, to call them supporting cast is not to give them enough credit as their secondary plot is half the fun of the show and contributes greatly to the pace of the musical.

BWW Review: SHE LOVES ME at Elmwood Playhouse, Nyack, N.Y.The rest of the cast (and ensemble) is equally fine: Joe DeSpirito is sweet and likable as Maraczek the shop owner and Adam Feldman's Arpad, the delivery boy, is fresh and energetic. Rob Webber is the perfect second-banana in the shop, the quiet, careful one, who helps Georg get the girl. And David Sanders is an absolute scream as the head waiter in the Café where the lovers almost have their rendezvous.

Director Larry Gabbard does a fine job keeping the pace up in what can be a long show, bringing the show's sweet spots to the forefront without allowing them to become too saccharine. Tony Bellomy's musical direction is superb, maintaining consistent tempos and a fine balance between orchestra and singers. The show's sets, depicting the streets of Budapest and the shop in pastel tones, are very reminiscent of the Roundabout Theater's production of the show two seasons ago on Broadway, and provide an ideal backdrop for the show's nostalgic feel.

"She Loves Me" is not cutting-Edge Theater, not overly sophisticated or witty, however it is enormously entertaining, and this production will have you smiling from ear to ear. It's sweet, charming, chock-full of memorable songs and wonderful performances. It's musical comedy the way it used to be - and what's wrong with that?

SHE LOVES ME runs through 12/8

Elmwood Playhouse
10 Park Street, Nyack, NY 10960
(845) 353-1313

https://elmwoodplayhouse.com/

-Peter Danish

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