Theatre Mirror Reviews - "She Loves Me"

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entire contents copyright 2004 by Tony Annicone

"She Loves Me"

Reviewed by Tony Annicone

The Walpole Footlighters closing show of their 80th season is Joe Masteroff's 1963 musical, "She Loves Me" with music and lyrics by Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harnick. The show 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 "You've Got Mail" are also based. It 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 and Amalia, are pen pals who even though they have 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 Barbara Pettis takes her 21 member cast on a joyful journey to the 1930's, entertaining an appreciative audience all night long.

Barbara moves her large cast around the stage with ease and her stage manager, Marianne Phinney and her stage crew keep the set changes quick which helps the scenes flow from one to another. The musical direction is handled by David Tiedman who plays the piano, too. He makes the cast sound good in the waltzes and tangos and gets beautiful sounds from his orchestra, too. I especially loved the violin playing of Jagan Noth Khalsa who made his instrument sing with its beauty and the tremolos soar during the whole show. Choreography is by Pam McArdle who is a Performing Arts faculty member at Milton Academy. Her tango sequence in the restaurant scene is a hoot. The lovely, plush set of perfume shop, inside and out and a lady's bedroom is by Roger Pettis and the gorgeous 1930's costumes are by Debbie Ranaldi.

Playing the leads in this musical are Gary Poholek as Georg and Karen Bell as Amalia. Well seasoned actor, Gary Poholek is at home on the stage 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 all along. Gary delivers his songs with a strong baritone voice and shines in the nervous "Tonight at Eight" when he will finally meet his lady love and in the title number when he rides a bicycle on stage after finding love at last. Karen Bell possesses a gorgeous, soprano voice and sells all her numbers from the feisty ones to the poignant ones especially her "Dear Friend" solo where she bemoans the loss of her true love which closes Act I. She shows her exuberance in the "Vanilla Ice Cream" song when she realizes she cares for Georg at last. Like all good 1960's shows this one has a happy ending when the two leads finally realize who they really love as the final curtain descends, leaving the audience happy, too.

The secondary leads are played by Deidre Hatch as Ilona and Patrick Murphy as Kodaly. They are supposed to be in love with each other but Kodaly is really a womanizer. Deidre is very funny as the femme fatale who wants to be really loved by a man. 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. Patrick plays the vain cad of the show very well. As the slick and smarmy, Kodaly, he uses his singing voice in the song, '"Ilona" where he tries to seduce his fellow clerk and does an excellent Shuffle Off to Buffalo dance exit in his "Grand Knowing You" number where he tells the others what he thinks of them in less than flattering terms. The shy clerk, Sipos is played by Paul Winslow who the audience finds out to be a good friend to Georg, saving him from being fired in the song "Perspective". One of the biggest scene stealers in this show is 22 year old Tim Walter who plays Arpad, the delivery boy. Not only does Tim show off his fantastic voice in the "Try Me" song where he sells his boss on giving him a promotion by showing how he can sell perfume to the customers, he handles the transition from boy to man in the show with ease. Playing the seemingly hard hearted boss, Maraczek is Paul Campbell. He sings a lovely ballad, "Days Gone By" as the start of the show and later on you find out why he is so gruff when he finally realizes it is better to live in the present than the past. Paul handles the role very well. The other scene stealer in this show is Dan Kelly as the headwaiter. He bosses the customers and his busgirl(Katie Curley) who drops her tray constantly with malicious glee and tells everyone his restaurant is where lovers meet and they must behave accordingly. Dan shows the character's haughty behavior in his "A Romantic Atmosphere" song. This scene is hilarious as is the final Christmas scene where the shoppers finally collapse on Christmas eve. Rounding out this cast are Christine Grudinskas, Kathleen and Joe Mecure, Charlene Winslow, Sue Leiendecker, Roberta Kriegsman, Kate Hartig, Erica Haley, Colleen Lavery, Steven Lee, Stuart Patterson and Gloria O'Connor.

So for a enjoyable trip back to Hungary in 1930 be sure to catch The Walpole Footlighters', "She Loves Me".

"She Loves Me" (7 - 23 May)
5 Scout Road, East Walpole, MA
1 (508) 668-8446

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide