Mansfield Music and Arts Society's holiday show is Joe Masteroff's 1963 musical, "She Loves Me" with music and lyrics by Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harnick. This musical is based on a 1930's play by Miklos Laszlo on which the movies "The Shop Around the Corner", "In the Good Old Summertime" and "I've Got Mail" are also based. "She Loves Me" takes place in a perfume shop in Hungary in 1930 and the characters live in a world of love and longing. The two leads, Georg Nowack and Amalia Balash, are pen pals who even though they never met, are deeply in love due to their love letters, but despise each other in real life. Two of the other clerks are supposedly in love, a meek clerk stands up for what he thinks is right, an errand boy becomes an adult overnight and the owner of the shop learns a lesson about life from them. Director James Rio takes his cast on a joyful journey to the 1930's, entertaining an appreciative audience all night long.
James not only directs the show but musically directs and play lead keyboards. He moves his cast around the stage wonderfully and the scenes flow, keeping the interest of the audience from start to finish. The gorgeous sets are by Josh Kigner. The exterior and interior of the shop are stunning. Playing the leads in this musical are Ken Butler as Georg and Dawn Tucker as Amalia. Well seasoned actor, Ken Butler is home in any role he tackles and this one is no exception. He plays the clerk who longs to be loved by the woman of his dreams, never realizing, she has been in front of him this whole time. Ken possesses a strong tenor voice and shines in the nervous "Tonight at Eight" when he is meeting his pen pal for the first time as well as in "She Loves Me" when he rides a bicycle on stage after finding love at last. Dawn shows spunk as this character. She has a glorious soprano voice which soars in the feisty ones as well as the poignant ones especially "Dear Friend" solo where she bemoans the loss of her true love which closes Act 1. Her comic songs include "I Don't Know His Name" with Ilona and "Where is My Shoe?" with Georg. She displays her exuberance in the "Vanilla Ice Cream" song when she finally admits that she cares for Georg at last. Like all 1960's shows this one has a happy ending when the two leads finally realize who they really love as the curtain descends, leaving the audience happy, too. I last reviewed Dawn in "Anything Goes" at NSMT during the summer.
The secondary leads are played by Janet Ferreri as Ilona and Steven Kosakow as Kodaly. They are supposed to be in love with each other but Kodaly is really a womanizer. Janet is very funny as the femme fatale who wants to be loved by a man. Her facial expressions are perfect. Her first song is "I Resolve" where she will stay away from the wrong kind of man and the second is the comic, "A Trip to the Library" where she finds true love at last with an optometrist. Steven plays the vain cad of the show very well. He has a strong tenor voice. As the slick and smarmy, Kodaly, he displays his voice in "Ilona" where he tries to seduce his fellow clerk. He does an excellent job in his "Grand Knowing You" number. He tells his fellow workers what he thinks of them in less than flattering terms. Steven's falsetto is this number is terrific.
The shy clerk, Sipos is well played by Frank Piekut who the audience finds out is a good friend to Georg, saving him from being fired in his big number "Perspective." Another comic performer is Kevin Fortin as Arpad, the delivery boy who rides his bike on stage. Not only does Kevin display his strong voice in "Try Me" where he convinces his boss he can sell perfume to the customers, earning him a promotion, but handles the transition from boy to man with ease. Playing the seemingly hard hearted boss, Maraczek is Bill Roberts. He sings a beautiful ballad at the start of the show called "Days Gone By" and later on you find out why he is so gruff. He realizes it is better to live in the present than the past. Bill handles the role very well. One of the scene stealers is Kevin Hayes as the head waiter, saying the place is for romance. He bosses his customers and yells with glee at the busgirl who keeps dropping the tray constantly. He tells the customers it is where lovers meet and they must behave accordingly. Kevin displays the character's haughty behavior in his "Romantic Atmosphere" number. This scene is hilarious as is the final Christmas scene when the shoppers finally collapse on Christmas Eve. The shop lifter is hilarious, too. So for an enjoyable trip back to 1930's Hungary, be sure to catch "She Loves Me" at MMAS. The show wins a well deserved standing ovation. Tell them Tony sent you.