THEATER REVIEW: “She Loves Me” @ Capital Repertory Theatre [Berkshire on Stage]
Review by Roseann Cane
When was the last time you left a theater feeling exuberant, even beguiled? For me, it was about 24 hours ago, right after Capital Repertory Theatre’s opening night of She Loves Me. I’m still smiling.
She Loves Me originally opened on Broadway in 1963 with a star-studded cast that included Barbara Cook, Daniel Massey and Jack Cassidy. Inspired by a 1936 Hungarian play (which in turn inspired the 1940 film classic “The Shop Around the Corner,” 1949’s “In the Good Ole Summertime” and 1998’s “You’ve Got Mail”), it was only moderately successful, a romantic jewel box of a musical without any big song-and-dance numbers, outshone by the bold, brassy hit, Hello, Dolly! But She Loves Me continues to attract an ever-growing fan base, and it has enjoyed many revivals in both the U.S. and the U.K.
One reason for its lasting appeal is that the story is about “real” people. The workers in a perfume shop in 1930s Hungary steer the tale of two bickering co-workers, Georg Nowack (Michael McCorry Rose) and Amalia Balash (Julia Burrows), who have a secret: Each is exchanging letters to a potential mate found through a lonely hearts club. Meanwhile, a womanizing clerk, Steven Kodaly (David Girard), manipulates love-struck Ilona Ritter (Tracy Jai Edwards) even as he claws his way into the boudoir of a woman of means. Rounding out the shop associates are the bicycle-riding delivery boy, Arpad (an endearing Jimmy Bain), kindly clerk Ladislav Sipos (an affable, very amusing Marc de la Concha) and shop owner Mr. Maraczek (a commanding, poignant Kevin McGuire).
Maggie Mancinelli-Cahill has assembled a startlingly good cast. Their singing voices, all of them, are glorious. I have heard the original cast recording many times, yet I found the show’s signature numbers, Amalia’s “Vanilla Ice Cream” and Georg’s “She Loves Me,” heart-stoppingly good. Rose and Burrows have a palpable chemistry, and their performances are so fresh and sweet that despite my familiarity with the plot, I found myself right in the moment with them, hoping against hope that they would reveal their feelings to each other.