Try to remember a time before the Internet, before dating sites, before personal ads and instant cameras and you will eventually discover the age-old path of finding love and dating for men and women called "Lonely Hearts Clubs".
In Marriott Theatre’s “She Loves Me", a musical with a book by Joe Masteroff, lyrics by Sheldon Harnick, and music by Jerry Bock, two co-workers at the quaint Maraczek’s Parfumerie shop have unwittingly fallen in love with each other by the “Dear Friend” letters they have sent and received through their lonely hearts club connection. Though Georg and Amalia have not seen even a single photo of the other they each are certain by the written words of the other that they are truly in love and are ready to finally meet.
Alex Goodrich’s Georg, the male half of this love match starts out as a bit of a jerk. Goodrich, who puts forth a very strong performance, makes Georg very sympathetic, albeit a bit of a boor though he is likable to his co-workers. He is earnestly content with his fifteen-year-plus job at the store. Although he has lots of girls who are real friends, it turns out Georg is completely insecure and out of touch with his feelings towards the opposite sex when it comes to romance.
When Elizabeth Telford enters the store as Amalia (who is both seeking employment and unsuspectingly the other half of the lonely hearts club love letters), Georg is utterly irritated by her natural instinct for sales. Georg treats her with disdain even though she is cute and eminently qualified for the job she gets from the boss after selling a new product, a musical cigarette box, in record time.
Both Goodrich and Telford endear you to their stubborn characters over the course of the show. As delivery boy, Arpad, played with youthful cheer, by Grant Kilian says to another clerk at the store with wonder, "Do they like each other?” The other clerk says, " Yes, they like each other very much," to which Arpad says, "Well shouldn't someone tell them?"
Elizabeth Telford really knocks it put of the park emotionally and vocally with the number “Will He Like Me?", as she muses about all the different qualities he may or may not find attractive about her once they finally meet. Also, her genuinely joyous and girlish rendition of "Vanilla Ice Cream" lifts the audience to believe in true love again as Georg, who has already stood her up once, breaking her heart so badly that she cannot return to work that day, delivers a pint of Amalias' favorite vanilla ice cream. The thoughtful gesture makes her happy at his consideration in a way that begins to dimly realize what might be real love despite his earlier disdainful and brutish treatment of her feelings at work.
Yes, it's like a period piece version of " You've Got Mail" that plays with a very modern feel as couples STILL face these challenges trying to find their mate today despite the Internet dating revolution.
(Above) Jessica Naimy as "Ilona" and Jame Earl Jones II as "Sipos"
Jessica Naimy as Ilona steals the show with two of her numbers as the sexy, single gal at the Parfumerie who lets her desire for Mr. Right get in the way of finding her Mr. Right. In “I Resolve”, Naimy sings with genuine force and power that she resolves to let go of her destructive purely sexual relationship with the lothario of the drugstore and rather stand up for the truly lovable and deserving-of-respect woman she really is. In the number “Trip to the Library", Ilona seems to unconsciously know that a trip to a place of higher learning for the evening instead of to the local drinking hole will eventually lead to her meeting a man of substance and intelligence who loves her the way she was meant to be loved.
James Earl Jones II as Sipos, the clerk with a family who will kiss anyone's butt to save his boring but dependable job, delivers a very funny, dry performance and his singing voice is both comical and deeply resounding. Great job! And David Schlumpf as Steven Kodaly, the womanizing and insensitive clerk who'll sleep with anyone, really makes you want to slap him in the face, but his number “Grand Knowing You" shows the audience his sexist honesty is what finally pushes Ilona over the brink to find her own self-respect again, even if it means being alone for a while.
Shop owner Mr. Maraczek is also well played by Terry Hamilton, as he is able to finely capture both the character’s storminess as that of a demanding boss and the good heartedness that hides beneath his exterior.
The slicked back hair and black tails of The Headwaiter who serves Georg and Amalia at their very first meeting at a "romantic hideaway" is hysterically portrayed by Steven Strafford who has great physical comedy skills with his spot on facial expressions and timing.
Directed and choreographed by Artistic Director Aaron Thielen, “She Loves Me” is a cute love story that features many charming characters and fun numbers including the adorable “Thank You, Madam” a goodbye the store employees sing together whenever a customer leaves the shop.
Thank you, madam.
Please call again.
Do call again,
I highly recommend this heartwarming, fresh and fun production which is brought to life by Jeffrey D. Kmiec’s sets, Jesse Klug’s soft and lovely period lighting and especially Sally Dolembo’s really delicious, color-rich costumes for both the leads and the wonderful ensemble of players who portray shoppers in the store. Altogether with this superb cast, "She Loves Me" brings the art of lovemaking in this long past period to life in a delightful modern way.
“She Loves Me” is being performed at Marriott Theatre in Lincolnshire through June 18th. For tickets and show information click here.
Set against the lavish backdrop of a 1930s Hungarian perfume shop, the Tony Award-winning musical comedy gem, SHE LOVES ME, continues The Marriott Theatre’s 2017 Season, running April 26 through June 18, 2017 at 10 Marriott Drive, Lincolnshire. Based on Miklos Laszlo’s play, Parfumerie, which then became the inspiration for the Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan box office hit, You’ve Got Mail, SHE LOVES ME features a soaring score by Tony Award-winning composers Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harnick (Fiddler on the Roof), and book by Joe Masteroff (Cabaret). With musical direction by Matt Deitchman, Marriott Theatre Lead Artistic Director and Jeff Award-winner Aaron Thielen directs and choreographs this euphoric comedy.
“I fell in love with SHE LOVES ME twenty-six years ago, when I was cast in the show while attending the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point. Also in that cast we're soon to be Marriott Theatre alumni Guy Adkins and Tari Kelly. I think it's a brilliant show and am thrilled to get the opportunity to work on it again,” says Director and Choreographer Aaron Thielen. “From the details of the props and costume pieces, to the music’s Hungarian influence, we’re really adding the element of tradition back into this already amazing piece. This production is a nod to the folk tradition of the era.”
A captivating jewel-box of a musical, SHE LOVES ME follows Georg and Amalia, two parfumerie clerks who don’t see eye to eye, constantly quarreling on the job. But once the work day is done, the feuding coworkers find solace in their anonymous romantic pen pals, not knowing their respective correspondents are actually each other. Chaos ensues as a tangle of mistaken identity and hilarious encounters finally bring the soulmates together, leading Georg to realize the animosity between the two may have been nothing less than love in disguise. SHE LOVES ME radiates pure romance through some of the most iconic songs in the musical theatre canon, including“Vanilla Ice Cream,” “Tonight at 8” and “She Loves Me.”
SHE LOVES ME stars Elizabeth Telford as “Amalia Balash” (The Marriott Theatre: La Cage aux Folles, The Wizard of Oz, On The Town); Jeff Award Winner Alex Goodrich as “Georg Nowack” (The Marriott Theatre: World Premiere of HERO, How to Succeed in Business without Really Trying, ELF, and On the Town; Northlight Theatre: World Premiere of Shining Lives: A Musical); Jeff Award Winner Terry Hamilton as “Mr. Maraczek” (The Marriott Theatre: How to Succeed in Business without Really Trying; October Sky); Jeff Award Winner David Schlumpf as “Steven Kodaly” (The Marriott Theatre: Evita; Chicago Shakespeare: Sense & Sensibility, As You Like It, and Timon of Athens), Jessica Naimy as “Ilona Ritter” (The Marriott Theatre: How to Succeed in Business without Really Trying; Broadway: Honeymoon in Vegas; National Tour: South Pacific);James Earl Jones II as “Ladislav Sipos” (The Marriott Theatre: She Loves Me, Madagascar, October Sky, Dreamgirls and Full Monty); and sharing the role of “Arpad Laszlo” are Grant Kilian (Marriott Theatre debut!) and Johnny Rabe (Marriott Theatre: Mary Poppins and For The Boys; Broadway: A Christmas Story).SHE LOVES ME also features Lillian Castillo, Aaron Holland, Johanna McKenzie Miller, Jeff Pierpoint, Laura Savage, Allison Sill, Cassie Slater, Jason Slattery, Brandon Springman, Steven Strafford and James Rank.
The production will feature set design by Jeff Kmiec, costume design by Sally Dolembo, lighting design by Jesse Klug, sound design by Robert E. Gilmartin, properties design by Sally Weiss, musical supervision and orchestra conducted by Patti Garwood.
The performance schedule for SHE LOVES ME is Wednesdays at 1:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m., Thursdays and Fridays at 8:00 p.m., Saturdays at 4:30 p.m. and 8:00 p.m., Sundays at 1:00 p.m. and 5:00 p.m., with select Thursday 1:00 p.m. shows. Ticket prices range from $50 to $60, including tax and handling fees. Call for student, senior and military discounts. On Wednesday and Thursday evenings there are a limited number of FREE dinners available with the purchase of a full-priced theatre ticket, which can only be purchased through the Marriott Theatre Box Office. To make a restaurant reservation, please call 847.634.0100. Free parking is available at all performances. To reserve tickets, please call The Marriott Theatre Box Office at 847.634.0200 or go to www.ticketmaster.com. Visit www.MarriottTheatre.com for more information.