Sunday, March 27, 2016

She Loves Me ****

How lucky we are to have first-rate revivals of not one but two Bock and Harnick masterpieces on Broadway this season — 1964’s Fiddler on the Roof  and 1963’s She Loves Me. The two shows are so different that it’s hard to believe that they were working on both at the same time. One thing they have in common is that they are both set in vanishing worlds. Whereas Fiddler presents a momentous story embellished with all the accoutrements of a 60’s Broadway musical, She Loves Me tells a romantic tale on an intimate scale with little razzle dazzle. The skillful book by Joe Masteroff is based on Parfumerie, the play by Milosz Laszlo that inspired three films (The Shop around the Corner, In the Good Old Summertime and You’ve Got Mail). We meet the staff of a Budapest parfumerie in the early 1930’s: owner Mr. Maraczek (Byron Jennings), assistant manager Georg Nowack (Zachary Levi), longtime sales clerk Ladislav Sipos (Michael McGrath), caddish clerk Steven Kodaly (Gavin Creel), pliant cashier Ilona Ritter (Jane Krakowski) and ambitious delivery boy Arpad Laszlo (Nicholas Barasch). The new sales clerk Amalia Balash (Laura Benanti) and Georg immediately get off on the wrong foot. Neither knows that they have been anonymously corresponding with the other for months after answering a lonely hearts ad. In their sometimes affair, Kodaly repeatedly takes advantage of Ilona. Mr. Maraczek suddenly begins to mistreat Georg after misinterpreting an anonymous letter he received. Fear not! All will be happily resolved. One of this well-crafted show's many accomplishments is that each character gets at least one song that both describes the character and advances the plot. The excellent cast does full justice to the wonderful music and lyrics. Benanti’s glorious voice and comic chops are perfection and Krakowski adds dimensions to her role that I didn’t know were there. Levi makes a fine foil for Benanti. Only Creel seemed slightly out of his element. Peter Bartlett is the swishy but ultimately sympathetic headwaiter at the Café Imperiale and Michael Fatica is amusing as the clumsy busboy. Warren Carlyle’s choreography for the scenes at Maraczek’s played very well, but I thought his work in the café scene was too broad and did not fit in with the rest of the show. David Rockwell’s jewel box of a set is a joy to see. Jeff Mahshie’s period costumes are attention grabbers — think pink, fuschia and purple. Paul Gemignani conducts the score with panache. Director Scott Ellis, whose 1993 revival, also for Roundabout, was excellent, does even better this time out. I cannot imagine anyone not enjoying this wonderful production. Running time: two hours 30 minutes including intermission.

No comments: