With its comical lyrics and endearing storyline, She Loves Me sweeps the stage of Poulton Hall with a kinetic performance that inspires smiles all around.
The musical takes place in 1937 in an inviting, polished parfumerie lined with tubes of Mona Lisa cold cream, flowery scents and a charming, suave ensemble of clerks that set the aesthetic ambiance of the play. Beauty abounds as polka dots and layered, sheer florals flow around the lipstick-garnished women who tend to and patronize the shop. Suspenders, bow-ties and dapper, albeit slightly large, suits decorate the humorous male cast.
The play centers around a cheesy-sounding plot: a man and a woman fall in love through a correspondence found in a lonely hearts club, oblivious to the fact that they in fact work together at the parfumerie and, coincidentally, loathe each other. Amalia, played by Reagan Lawn (COL ‘16), and Georg Nowack, played by Matt Grisier (COL ‘16), steal tidbits of time from their job selling lotion and perfume and on-the-side bickering, each adoringly admires letters the other has written. The outcome of this trope-laden story is obvious: the two must eventually meet face to face.
The protagonists and their colleagues explore entertaining takes on blind dates as the reveal of the pen pals’ identities approaches. The topics of the lyrics range from death to marriage.
The musical shifts from the predictable and corny to the realistic and charming when Amalia and Georg do not confront their identities as each other’s blind dates. Instead, letter-writing identities still unknown, they engage in yet another argument, this time against the comical background of waiter Kyle O’Donnell’s (COL ’16) endeavor to maintain a “romantic atmosphere” (in a pseudo German or Austrian accent).
This argument, alongside the ensuing ice-cream-packed consolation over a purported no-show of Amalia’s “dear friend,” involving a comic characterization of the mystery man as old and balding, launches the two into an entirely more realistic love story characterized by smiles, companionship and gradual joint walks to the bus stop.
The musical does not hinge on this evolving love story alone, however, but rather is composed of a series of musical monologues, energetic chases and parallel story lines.
Amalia’s friend, played by Zoe Novak (COL ‘17) has her own love interest: Mr. Kodaly, played by Peter Fanone (COL ’15). Their interactions offer some of the most entertaining scenes, with an irresistible sexual tension as Fanone’s sly, debonair nature seduces Ilona, only to crush her hopes with excuses to miss their dates. The seduction materializes in talented, captivating performances with great vocal projection and dynamic stepping, stomping, gliding on the stage.
She Loves Me displays a pleasing tendency to dispel the predictable, as Ilona’s life seemingly transforms after a resignation from emotional vulnerability and trip to the library. Rather than the intimidating rows upon rows of timeless literary classics, it is another man’s “deep brown eyes” that allow Ilona to discover “the magic of books.”
Will Redmond’s (COL ’15) character, Ladislav, initially seems a supplementary, awkward clerk, but his quirky, optimistic and simultaneously nihilistic solo “Perspective” offers a dynamic, hilarious addition that raises him, too, to the spotlight.
Even the transitions offer a comedic refresher, as Arpad, played by Andrew Walker (SFS ’16), points to the lights with a cheery “It’s winter!” Worry not, for Walker’s innocent, clumsy and sweet character banish the seeming corniness of the blatant transitions. Mr. Maraczek, played by Harrison Wilken (COL ’14), additionally offers a break from the romantic storyline with a dramatic plot twist.
“The fact that every character gets a chance to step out of the show and shine by themselves as well as part of the entire ensemble is just absolutely fantastic,” Grisier said.
The musical’s comical lyrics, stunning performances of unique characters and charming twists away from a predictable plot ultimately achieve director Katie Rosenberg’s (COL ’14) endeavor to provide “a breath of fresh air” from the darker, heavier themed Mask & Bauble productions.
April 3-5, 9-12 at 8 p.m.
April 6 at 2 p.m.
Editor’s Note: The article was updated to correct an error. The actress playing Ilona was incorrectly referred to as Zoe Rosen. Her name is Zoe Novak.