By George Maguire
From the first sounds of the four-piece ensemble, we are transported to a Hungarian Rhapsody of music in 42nd Street Moon’s She Loves Me.
Under music director Daniel Thomas’ astute piano accompaniment along with three San Francisco musical stalwarts—Emily Chiet (violin), Nick DiScala (winds) and Lynden James (keyboard), we know we are in for the musical delights of this delicious score.
Based on Miklos Laszlo’s enchanting play Parfumerie, the story has been the basis for many adaptations including The Shop Around the Corner (with Jimmy Stewart), The Good Old Summertime (with Judy Garland), and You’ve Got Mail (Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan) reinventing letters into e-mails as “Dear Friends” find one another.
In 1963, the estimable team of Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harnick (Fiorello and Fiddler on the Roof) along with libretto writer Joe Masteroff (Cabaret) brought the story to musical life. Listen to this score and try to find similarities with Fiddler – impossible, and that is masters at their best. Recipient of five Tony nominations (losing to that little-known musical Hello Dolly), She Loves Me has had a fortunate and constant revival afterlife. The vocal demands alone make presenting it challenging for any company.
The leads in this season-closing 42nd Street Moon production are excellent. Georg Nowak (an exceptional and physically adroit Riley Mcfarland) writes letters of love to his “dear friend” Amalia Balash (Marah Sotelo). Watch and listen to Mcfarland’s ever shifting choices making every word whether sung (superbly) or spoken, a journey into the heart. Sotelo has a sweet lyric soprano as she sings the musical’s classic songs “Dear Friend,” “Will He Like Me,” and the tour-de-force “Ice Cream.” If she cannot quite keep up with McFarland’s roller coaster of smug, defiant, loving and pained choices, who could?
Supporting them are solid and vocally rich Will Giammona as the perfume shop’s Snidely Whiplash, Kodaly. Spot-on Sophia Alawi is his occasional paramour Ilona, with Lee Strawn making his long awaited Moon debut as shop owner Mr. Maraczek, Nick Nakashima (hysterical) as Sipos, another shop clerk, Roeen Nooran as the bicycle-riding delivery boy, and Ted Zoldan as the most pompous head waiter in musical lore. Add a lovely ensemble of six actor/singers and the well-cast musical sings with gusto and heart.
The challenge of this musical for any theater company, but especially Moon, with its very limited budgets and resources, is the set. How to present seven distinct locations which repeat themselves throughout the musical?
Designer Kuo-Hao Lo, with assist from Stewart Lyle and Dennis Licktieg, gives us an almost jewelry box design, which at times unfortunately is shakier than a bowl of Jello. Great set design ideas don’t always work as imagined. It was clear during opening that the production needed more secure grounding.
High praise though, to costume designer Adriana Gutierrez for a glorious array of colorful and perfect work. She Loves Me is a treasure trove of musical gifts and so is 42nd Street Moon.
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ASR Contributing Writer George Maguire is a San Francisco based actor and director. and a voting member of the SF Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle. He is a Professor Emeritus of Solano College. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
|Production||She Loves Me|
|Written by||Joe Masteroff|
|Music & Lyrics by||Bock and Harnick|
|Directed by||Peet Cocke|
|Producing Company||42nd Street Moon|
|Production Dates||Thru June 25th|
|Production Address||The Gateway Theatre
215 Jackson Street San Francisco, CA
|Tickets||$35 – $80|
|Reviewer Score||Max in each category is 5/5|
|Aisle Seat Review PICK?||----|