note: entire contents copyright 2008 by Beverly Creasey
The Longwood Players are making a name for themselves: First with last year’s exceptional (IRNE nominated) THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST and now with their effervescent SHE LOVES ME (at the Cambridge YMCA through next weekend). The Bock-Harnick musical is a delicious confection of spun sugar. Joe Masteroff’s adorable book is adapted from the Hungarian play best remembered as the Ernst Lubitsch film, THE SHOP AROUND THE CORNER (and more recently as YOU’VE GOT MAIL). Director Kaitlin Chantry’s production at Longwood will have you dreaming of gypsy love songs and delicate almond tortes topped with whipped cream.
This charming story of two competitive co-workers completely smitten with their secret pen pals is propelled by the wonderfully silly notion that each turns out to be the other’s “lonely heart.” Chantry captures the old world rhythms of a Hungarian rhapsody while updating the story to the 1930s. The characters are still Hungarian but now they’re immigrants trying to make a living in depression era New York.
Jerry Bock’s gorgeous music marries Liszt to Strauss Jr. with a touch of Berlin, just so you remember this is a musical. John Randell’s European perfume shop set has a sensational revolving door, just so you’ll remember this is a comedy. What lovely, light performances grace this production: First and foremost is April Pressel as the slightly lightheaded heroine. It’s no wonder the frazzled shop owner (Scott Giangrande in a touching performance) hires her on the spot. She’s a treasure. (And her “Ice Cream” song takes the cake.) Katie Pickett, too, as the more experienced (in more ways than one) salesgirl, gets to shine, especially in the hilarious “Library” song.
Ian Flynn stops the show with his endearing “Perspective” on economics---and his nimble dancing (complete with high kick!). Some of the characters fare better than others with Jenn Bates’ precocious choreography but when it works, it works like gangbusters! Michael Chateauneuf’s “Try Me” is spot on.
Ethan Butler is a solid hero in the Jimmy Stewart mold (with a touch of Gene Kelley in the rain) and Christopher Benoit gets terrific laughs as the pencil-mustached bounder. Steven Kostakow brings down the house while trying to keep it quiet at everyone’s favorite trysting spot. Kostakow (who’s a dead ringer for Bert Parks) and Aaron Moronez demonstrate their perfect comic timing juggling the lovers, the wine and the production number.
Music director Paul Mattal gets wonderful Viennese waltzes, Hungarian czardas, rumbas ---even Ravel’s Bolero makes a comic appearance--- from a first rate orchestra and we get a soaring, pre-show gypsy serenade from principal violinist Sonja Larson. Romance. Laughter. Stirring Coloratura. Fabulous costumes (by Jenn Martinez). What’s not to love in SHE LOVES ME?