She Loves Me
Book by Joe Masteroff
Music by Jerry Bock
Lyrics by Sheldon Harnick
Director Erin James
Photography Noni Carroll
Hayes Theatre until September 22
Reviewed by Ron Lee, CSP
With such excellent recent productions of Beautiful, Kinky Boots, Aladdin, Torch Song Trilogy, Georgy Girl, Sleeping Beauty, We Will Rock You, Ghost The Musical, Jersey Boys and The Book of Mormon, there seems to have been a plethora of brilliant musicals in Sydney.
The Hayes Theatre, which specialises in musical theatre, is staging She Loves Me which played on Broadway in 1963 and the West End in 1964, again in 1993 and 1994 and also in 2016 on both sides of the Atlantic.
The origin of She Loves Me is the play Parfumerie by Hungarian playwright Miklós László and there have been several incarnations.
The setting is a parfumerie owned by Zoltan Maraczek in 1937 Budapest and its staff prides itself on cheery and welcoming customer service. Some of the trainers in today’s retail sector would benefit from seeing this show.
The cast of character types includes the older, proud shop owner, the enthusiastic young manager, the delivery boy who is aspiring to be a sales assistant, the slick ladies’ man, the diligent and loyal plodder, the young blonde woman who is willing to adapt herself to any man she fancies and the feisty, focused and determined young woman who is prone to emotional extremes.
Amalia Balash enters the shop to apply for a job as a sales assistant and she’s prevented from seeing the owner by shop manager Georg Nowak. Amalia manages to get past the gatekeeper to land the job and the animosity begins. As we know, there’s a fine line between love and hate; hate sometimes leads to love and infatuation frequently leads to resentment.
You can predict the rest of the plot line. As always, the journey is more interesting than the outcome, and the fine cast acts, sings and dances its way to the inevitable happy ending.
In many musicals at least one song is memorable; Tomorrow (Annie), Memory (Cats), Shall We Dance? (The King and I), One Night in Bangkok (Chess), and Oklahoma! (Oklahoma!). In Jersey Boys and Beautiful there are numerous. An exception is Miss Saigon in which there are no notable songs. In fact, I walked out of Miss Saigon humming a song from another musical.
She Loves Me is unusual in that I didn’t leave the theatre humming any particular song but each song such as “Good Morning, Good Day”, “Thank You Madam” and “Vanilla Ice-Cream”, in the moment, was thoroughly enjoyable, entertaining and sometimes uplifting.
The solidly talented cast includes Zoe Gertz (Ilona), Kurt Phelan (Kodaly), Joel Granger (Laszlo), Suzanne Steele & Georgina Walker (Customers), Rowan Witt as Georg the male lead and Jay James-Moody as comic relief Sipos. Caitlin Berry is outstanding as Amalia Balash, the “She” in She Loves Me. Triple threat Berry first impressed me in Ruthless! The Musical in fine company and has deservedly been in constant work ever since.
Veteran performer Tony Llewellyn-Jones plays Maraczek. The last time I saw him on the stage was in the 1980s and it’s a delight to see that he still has the enthusiasm, the drive and most importantly, the talent to give an audience its money’s worth. Some very experienced actors have admitted that they only do some jobs for the money and will walk through the performance. Not so with Llewellyn-Jones who contributes with the same zeal and commitment that he did forty years ago.
Erin James’ direction keeps the pace going at a decent clip and Isabel Hudson’s set design is imaginative, creative and practical, while Musical Director and his band of five have the songs bubbling along.
The Hayes Theatre is giving audiences the opportunity to see a rarely performed musical that’s quaint, unusual, well-produced and extremely entertaining, mainly due to the exceptional team involved. If you’re into musicals, go to see She Loves Me; you’ll walk out happy.