The Pawtucket Community Players 300th show is the seldom done, musical, "She Loves Me". Written in the 1960's, it is a 3 hour show with many set changes and musical numbers. The show takes place in a perfume shop in Hungary in 1930 and the characters live in a world of love and longing. The two leads 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 Erika Koch takes her whole 17 member cast on a joyful journey, making it an entertaining 3 hours filled with excellent acting, singing and dancing.
Erika Koch is a superb director who is meticulous about every single detail in her show. Not only does she direct, but she cleverly, stages all the musical numbers, too. From the set, to the costumes, to the blocking of the numerous scenes, this is a show with high energy and the necessary talent to pull it off. Erika creates many beautiful picture postcard moments and creates the correct staging to keep these scenes flowing seamlessly. Brava on a job well done. (Erika also does the costumes for her show, using many beautiful 1930 style clothing.)
She is aided in this huge task by a well organized staff and crew headed by the stage managing talents of Vinny Lupino. The musical direction is handled by Joe Carvalho who makes the soloists in the waltzes and tangoes soar, the violionist, Amy Francisco who adds the needed depth to the score and the percussionist, Ken DiBiasio who blended into the music without overpowering the vocalists. Erika's splendid set of perfume shop, inside and out, an upscale restaurant and a lady's bedroom is designed by her husband and producer, Brian Mulvey and is constructed by master carpenter, Victor S. Turenne. The intricate props in the perfume shop are created by the talented, Michele Pinault and the lighting design is by the creative, young, Robert Ferland. Each of these elements add up to a well, executed performance.
Playing the leads in this muscial are Mary Beth Kim as Amalia and Tom Gleadow as Georg. She possesses a gorgeous, soprano voice and sells all her numbers from the feisty ones to the poignant ones especially her "Dear Friend" number where she bemoans the loss of her true love. Mary Beth adds a backbone to ingenue role and she and Tom show a lot of chemistry in their scenes together. Veteran actor, Tom Gleadow 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. Tom also delivers his numbers with a strong, baritone voice and does a great job in the title song which he dances to with his umbrella, reminding you of "Singing In The Rain" without the rain on stage.
The secondary roles are played by Stacey Geer as Ilona and Donald Blais as Kodaly. They are supposed to be in love with each other but Kodaly is really a womanizer. Stacey really shines in this role, showing how her character yearns for a loving relationship at last. She shows her strong vocal prowess in the "I Resolve" song and her comic touch in "A Trip to the Library" where she finds true love at last with an optometrist. Donald plays the vain cad of the show very well. As the slick and smarmy, Kodaly, he uses his powerful, tenor voice to captivate the audience in his "Ilona" song while trying to seduce his fellow clerk and his not so graceful exit number, "Grand Knowing You".
Dan Gerstenlauer plays the shy clerk, Sipos who proves to be a good friend to Georg, saving him from being fired and showing him how to have "Perspective" on things in the shop. He handles his role with ease and interacts very well with his fellow performers. The youngest cast member is Jonathan Olivera who plays Arpad, the delivery boy. This young man shows his acting and singing talent throughout, holding his own with his elder peers. Jonathan makes the transition from errand boy to clerk very believeable and sells his boss on making him a clerk in the "Try Me" song, showing him how he can sell the perfumes to customers. The seemingly hard hearted boss, Maraczek is played by veteran actor, Chuck Reifler. He shows the different layers of this man in his portrayal, giving him the depth needed to show his softer side in the second act. Chuck's character remembers his youthful days and finally realizes it is better to live in the present not the past.
In one of the funniest scenes in his show, John Moniz steals the spotlight while portraying a bossy, waiter. His restaurant is where lovers meet and they must behave accordingly. John badgers the clumsy busboy played by Brian Mulvey. John also shows his haughty behavior in his "A Romantic Atmosphere" song with the chorus.(John's fantastic tenor voice sells this number beautifully.) Rounding out the talented cast and playing various roles are Steve Morris, who plays a detective in a very serious scene, Carol Varden, who plays a customer who buys a music box after she is insulted about her weight, Laura Ash-Sulger, James Clements, Sr., Lori Dawson, Pam Jackson, Christy McCarthy and Lanny Slusher. So for a look at the way a three hour show can be done and enjoyed, go see "She Loves Me', you won't be disappointed.