Theatre Mirror Reviews - "She Loves Me"

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"What Happened in Boston, Willie"

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note: entire contents copyright 1999 by Larry Stark


"She Loves Me"

Book by Joe Masteroff
Directed by Spiro Veloudos
Musical Direction by Jonathan Goldberg
Choreography by Ilyse Robbins

Scenic Design by Jo-Anne Kulibaba
Lighting Design by Karen Perlow
Costume Design by Gail Astrid Buckley
Stage Manager Laurie A. Light
Assistant Stage Manager Ilyse Robbins
Assistant Stage Manager Catherine Kemp

Georg Nowack.......................................Chip Phillips
Amalia Balash.........................................Amy Soroko
Miss Ritter........................................Maryann Zschau
Ladislav Sipos.......................................Robert Saoud
Mr. Maraczek.........................................Job Emerson
Steven Kodaly.................................Steven Dascoulias
Arpad Laszlo..............................................Will Cohen
Keller...............................................Geoffrey P. Burns
Tango Couple.....Ilyse Robbins & George S. McCarthy
Head Waiter.....................................Brian De Lorenzo
Bus Boy..........................................Richard La France
Customers/Ensemble
David Fougere, Gretchen Goldsworthy, Kristin Palson, Brent Reno, Valerie Lynn Sneade

She Loves Me Orchestra
Keyboards...............................Jonathan Goldberg
Violin..............................................Peter Hughes
Reeds.............................Louis Toth, Ray Taranto
Trumpet/Horn.............................Harlan Feinstein
Cello........................................Catharine Stephan


The Lyric Stage of Boston's holiday musical "She Loves Me" opens with an intricate ripple of rhyme --- a song in which the five salespeople at Maraczek's Perfume Shop assemble, introduce themselves, and sing the banalities of an ordinary morning. This is not "sung-through" singsong, but a song with verses through which the cast passes the melody amongst one another like a lyrical basketball team. This is Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harnick tipping everyone to the fact that this 1930's Joe Masteroff story lives in a world where romance is possible, and even last-minute Christmas-shopping will take on a different glow.

This show is a group effort in which every one of the seventeen cast members --- no doubt with the precise permission of Director Spiro Veloudos --- gets a chance to steal the show, at least for a moment. Choreographer Ilyse Robbins not only gets to stage hilarious story/dance sequences, but teams with George S. McCarthy for a "Tango Tragique" of unbelievable sinuosity. Jo-Anne Kulibaba's set design, with peripatetic perfume-displays and flippable walls, moves from outside to inside the shop with costumed, choreographed precision from The Ensemble that demands two assistants for Stage Manager Laurie A. Light to bring off so deftly.

In fact, why don't we call the role of that workhorse Ensemble who leap in and out of half a dozen of Gail Astrid Buckley's sumptuous period costumes to shop, to dine, to dance, to sing and to whirl always in any of several characters throughout the evening: Valerie Lynn Sneade, Brent Reno, Kristin Palson, Gretchen Galsworthy, and David Fougere are the kaleidoscope's solid core, but Ilyse Robbins and George S. McCarthy, Brian De Lorenzo, Richard La France and Geoffrey P. Burns emerge out of this ensemble swim from time to time for specific roles. Like the seven principals around whom they swirl, their energy makes this entire seventeen-member company into a true ensemble.

Those other seven play out the plot, in which everyone believes something that isn't true. Ladislaw Sipos (Robert Saoud) believes he's an incompetent salesman; Arpad Laszlo (Will Cohen) believes he'll be a delivery-boy forever; store-owner Maraczek (Job Emerson) believes an employee (the wrong one) is having an affair with his wife; the cashier Miss Ritter (Maryann Zschau) believes the philandering clerk Mr. Kodaly (Steven Dascoulias) loves her, while he believes he can get away with anything; and George Nowack (Chip Phillips) and Amalia Balash (Amy Soroko) believe they hate one another even though they've actually been exchanging torridly sensitive love-letters (anonymously!) for months. And all these people, as well as Masteroff's plot-lines, intertwine as intricately as the Bock & Harnick songs.

It is as natural for these characters to talk as to sing, and the rhymes and rhythms make every phrase bright and fresh. Under the passion with which Amalia and Georg argue kindles a warm affection that grows stronger as the evening progresses, and it seems totally appropriate that their story ends not in crescendo, but in beautiful silence.

It falls to Miss Ritter to play a sort of "scherzo" parody of their literate love, as she enters a library for the very first time to find an optometrist who reads to her. (At this point Maryann Zschau puts on a pair of glasses for the first time onstage since her Miss Adelaide did in "Guys & Dolls"!) But it's not just her parallel story that widens and enlivens this story, but bits of counterpointing mime, significant glances, and ensemble reactions happening all over the Lyric's small thrust stage. Karen Perlow's lights dim for swift scene-changes or isolate a character or a pair in romantic glow, but when the lights and the stage are up full, everyone is part of the action all the time.

The finale here is a boisterous recreation of the twelve days of Xmas-Shopping that is true to any retailer's exhausting life, but this romantic bonbon is a charming month-long Christmas present to Boston, wrapped in Jonathan Goldberg's joyous Musical Direction, and tied, for me, with the ribbon of Harlan Feinstein's trumpet. Everyone involved, including its audience, makes this classic musical fresh and alive on a Lyric Stage indeed!

Love,
===Anon.


"She Loves Me" (till 20 December)
THE LYRIC STAGE COMPANY OF BOSTON
140 Clarendon Street, BOSTON
(617)437-7172

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