She Loves Me - Seattle Musical Theatre Review - 2015 by Don and Peggy Doman
She Loves Me . . . You Betcha
Two employees at a gift shop can barely stand one another, without realizing that they're falling in love through the mail as each other's anonymous pen pal. The story began as the play Parfumerie and then as a feature film in 1940 with Margaret Sullavan and James Stewart in The Shop Around the Corner, then as another film with Judy Garland and Van Johnson with music for In the Good Old Summertime, then as a Broadway musical in She Loves Me, and then lastly as a vehicle for Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan in You've Got Mail. My wife and I have a DVR, we mostly record TV programs, view them and erase them, but those that we really like never get deleted. They stand at the ready to entertain us. The Shop Around the Corner is a constant feature. I'll play it late at night and it will lull me to sleep within minutes . . . sometimes seconds. I know the dialog and once my mind takes over from the DVR I'm a goner.
A scene featuring Margaret Sullavan is a heart breaker. She visits the post office. She unlocks the post office box and reaches in to find no letter. In turn her gloved hand feels the side and the top of the box. That one hand coming up empty is one of the saddest moments in a feature film I've ever seen.
There's only one thing better than The Shop Around the Corner and that's the musical She Loves Me, the 1963 Broadway production. My first connection to She Loves Me was Barbra Streisand. The angst filled song Will He Like Me was from her "People" album, which went platinum in 1964.
Will he like me, who can say?
Oh, this evening seems a million years away
It's insanity to worry so all day
I'll try not to
Will he like me?
He's just got to
Will he like me?
He's just got to
Here is the song as recorded by Barbara Cook, who starred as the love-struck Amalia on Broadway in 1963.
Listening to the songs on CD, I can visualize all the action. The musical won a TONY for Jack Cassidy's portrayal of the arrogant, self-assured, womanizing clerk Mr Kodaly (registering high on almost everyone's smarm-o-meter). When the Mary Tyler Moore Show was being cast, Cassidy was offered the part of news anchor, self-absorbed Ted Baxter. The character was a little too much of a buffoon, so Cassidy turned the part down, but later he was written into an episode as Ted's brother and a rival newscaster. Mr Kadaly is an important character, the action turns on "his" actions. In The Shop Around the Corner the part was played by Joseph Schildkraut, who won his supporting actor Oscar for The Life of Emile Zola.
Several years ago the University of Washington presented She Loves Me. It ran two weekends. Over its short run we saw the production three times. We didn't get a chance to see the production at the 2010 Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland, so when we saw that Seattle Musical Theatre was presenting the musical we jumped at the chance to see it. We drove through the pouring rain both ways from Tacoma to Seattle and return. I wouldn't do that for Fiddler on the Roof (same song writing team). I hate driving in the rain on I-5, but would drive to Magnuson Park again if my schedule permitted. Originally we planned on two performances (Saturday and Sunday), but that didn't work out for us. Darn.
We've seen several productions at SMT and look forward to seeing more in the future. She Loves Me runs through the 20th of December. Although the story plays out over several seasons, the play ends on Christmas eve, so it's a great musical to enjoy for the holidays, but like most families there are so many obligations in December.
Seattle Musical Theatre is located in Magnuson Park on the site of the Naval Station Puget Sound at Sand Point, northwest of the campus of the University of Washington. The theater itself is huge. I think it seats around 400 people. It has high ceilings and a deep stage. The size offers both opportunity and hazard. The theater devours sound. People were clapping like mad for the production, but it sounded muted. That being said it was a lovely performance. The costumes looked authentic and the orchestra was wonderful.
There is no orchestra pit, so the orchestra is on the same level as the audience. What I enjoy about pit treatment at SMT is that the musicians are surrounded by a wall with Plexiglass reaching above the wall. In most theaters where the orchestra plays on the same level, you have to be careful to sit on the opposite side of the theater to hear both the orchestra and the actors. Not so at SMT. We sat on the aisle several rows back from the orchestra. For the overture, I would have turned the volume up, but that's just me. I love the songs and the orchestra did a nice job with the tunes.
The actors did a professional job. Jorie Jones who played Ilona, the young, single, good looking woman who doesn't really have a clue, but remains sweet even under the big guns of Paul Gauger as My Kodaly did a fantastic job with her triumphant anthem "A Trip to the Library." When her new boyfriend Paul pops the question that evening she's going to say yes. Amalia says, "I didn't know you were getting married," Ilona comes back with, "Neither does he." Gauger did a good job with his faux charm and slick manners, but I thought he could have pushed it over the top with plenty of room left over in his number Grand Knowing You.
Though I hate leaving you,
Hate leaving your warm intimate club.
It's a small pleasure but I'll treasure
Each warm intimate snub.
Doug Knoop played Sipos well. Sipos is a married man who constantly worries about losing his job, so will bend over backwards and do whatever he has to do to keep it. His wife and kids pray on his mind. He remains friends with Georg and does what he can, so that Georg keeps his job, but falls short. His song Perspective lays out his game plan, "Never disagree."
I would have liked to have seen Bill Higham's Mr Maraczek a little more flustered. He does a nice version of Days Gone By. Like many trusting husbands, he doesn't see what's going on right under his nose.
Audiences of She Loves Me get short-changed when it come to the delivery boy. In the movie version, The Shop Around the Corner, William Tracy was always cracking wise and at the beck and call of Mr Maraczek's wife as he ran errands and delivered bottles of expensive perfume to her. Tracy as "Pepi" had greater plans for himself . . . and you might not want to work under him. In She Loves Me Arpad is the delivery boy who comes in at the right time to spoil the suicide attempt of Mr Maraczek and finagles a deal with the boss as a part-time delivery boy and part-time sales clerk. Dustyn Moir as Arpad does a good job with Try Me, but knowing that Arpad has his own plans to take over the world means that he is being reined in. Too bad. Bad boys like Mr Kodaly win all the awards and a share of the divorce settlements. I think Moir could have given us the delivery boy with a dark side, after all in his song about what kind of sales he could produce even if a customer brought back a rancid face cream he bragged of his success. Mr Maraczek even remarked, "You managed to short change me." High praise indeed.
Laura Medford as Amalia does a great job on her rendition of Will He Like Me? and lets her fear show through at the restaurant when she is stood up by her "Dear Friend." I liked her follow up with the silly Where's My Shoe? with the lovely Vanilla Ice Cream even though her new feelings for Georg puts her at odds with her view of the man she thinks she is in love with.
My let down was A Romantic Atmosphere. At the end of the song a number of trays fall to the floor, which would certainly destroy a romantic atmosphere, but they didn't bang and clank, they just fell flat. There should have been a huge laugh there, but there was none. Again, the gobbling up sound problem with the size of the room, perhaps.
Brian Lange was an excellent Georg. Sharing his feelings with Sipos went over well as did his sharing the news with Amalia about his make believe meeting with her "Dear Friend." Since Georg and "Dear Friend" were one and the same, he had no problem mentioning a weight problem and a lack of hair for "Dear Friend." I would have loved to have seen Brian performing at Theater Schmeater (where he's appeared before), another one of our favorite theaters in the Seattle area. We like "the Schmee" because they are just off kilter a point or two. Brian did a very nice job with She Loves Me . . . "Well, well, well, well, well . . ." To not do a good job on She Loves Me, would be like messing up Oklahoma. You need to do well with the signature song especially when it has the same name as the play. He did well . . . well, well, well.
We'll keep our eyes out for both Laura, Brian and the rest of the cast in future productions around the Puget Sound area.
When we saw She Loves Me at the University of Washington, we brought along our friend Al to one of the performances, and we also brought him to Seattle Musical Theatre. All three of us enjoyed the show. I'm really sorry we only had the time for one performance. We have family events coming up over the next few weeks. That's the problem with holiday shows you really want to see. It would not be a good family political move to see She Loves Me and miss seeing Charlie Brown Christmas at a certain Lutheran Church in Auburn. Now, if Seattle Musical Theatre stages the production again next year, we'll show up multiple times.
She Loves Me plays through the 20th. Next up in February is 9 to 5 For tickets or information, go to Seattle Musical Theatre online or call at 206-363-2809.