Sunday, March 13, 2016

She Loves Me Leaves Me Smitten!

She Loves Me is a story of sworn enemies turned lovers that is so sugary sweet it might give you a cavity. But when we attend the theatre, we are asked to suspend disbelief, and after twenty minutes or so you'll be swept into the charming little world of 1930s Budapest and you'll deal with the sugar hangover tomorrow. It's this season's version of On The Twentieth Century, another classic show long overdue for a revival and was also produced by Roundabout Theatre Company. In this, their 50th season, they've brought together Laura Benanti, Zachary Levi, Gavin Creel, Byron Jennings, Michael McGrath, and Jane Krakowski in this Bock and Harnick classic with Scott Ellis at the helm.

The above mentioned players work in Mr. Maraczek's (Byron Jennings) Parfumerie and things are running exactly as planned until Amalia (Laura Benanti) arrives. This charismatic salesgirls butts heads with head clerk Georg (Zachary Levi) from the moment she arrives. Little do they know, they have something very important in common. They've been writing to one another anonymously under the pseudonym "Dear Friend." While they've been hating each other in person, they've been falling in love on the page, and as we've learned from every romantic comedy, love always wins.

Highlights include Benanti's vocally virtuosic "Vanilla Ice Cream," Levi's exuberant "She Loves Me," an astutely choreographed hurricane of actors and props in "Twelve Days to Christmas," and the melodramatic "Ilona" featuring a crooning Creel and a Krakowski crash split. Speaking of Ms. Krakowski, she was born to play the comedic characters in these classic musicals and she absolutely shines in this production. If we could go back in time, I would give anything to see her take on Ado Annie or Carrie Pipperidge.

In addition to outstanding performances, David Rockwell's' set is a star. Forced perspective creates the illusion of a real Budpest street and the opening and closing of Maraczek's Parfumerie is like that of a supersized dollhouse. Appropriate words to describe Rockwell's designs as well as Ellis' staging are 'charming' and 'delightful'. This show is a welcome addition to Studio 54 and anytime we can see such a stellar cast performing the work of one of history's best composing teams, we should all be happy.

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