Pictured: Lauren Braton and Patrick Beasley. Photo by Manon Halliburton.
Review: SHE LOVES ME at MTH Theater at Crown Center
By Marie Warner
MTH’s production of SHE LOVES ME is the lesser known, musical version of Miklós Lászlós play PARFUMERIE. You might be more familiar with PARFUMERIE’s various remakes: THE SHOP AROUND THE CORNER, YOU’VE GOT MAIL, or even the misguided Judy Garland vehicle, IN THE GOOD OLD SUMMERTIME. It seems impossible that a Hungarian play from 1937 could be retold in several different, famous and successful versions and still retain its charm, yet SHE LOVES ME does just that.
SHE LOVES ME tells the story of Georg Nowack and Amalia Balash, employees in Maraczek’s Parfumerie. From their first meeting, they are at odds and bicker constantly. Little do they know that the unnamed pen pals they are writing to and falling in love with are each other. The story is quite familiar to most of us at this point but still manages to be heartwarming, sentimental and lovely.
SHE LOVES ME features a bright, winsome score by Jerry Bock. There are no real catchy tunes or earworms in this show, but the old-world themes are right at home in the bustling, daily life of a Budapest perfume shop. The music along with Sheldon Harnick’s witty lyrics, serve not only to move the plot along but to create the sparkling world of Maraczek’s.
Lauren Braton and Patrick Beasley play the unsuspecting lovers. Braton is particularly good as the feisty Amalia, and Beasley serves as a solid foil for her. SHE LOVES ME provides opportunities for everyone to shine in various subplots. Mr. Maraczek (Andy Garrison) suspects one of his employees is having an affair with his wife, put upon shopgirl Ilona (Katy Bartow) tries to find love with the sleazy Kodaly (T. Eric Morris), and delivery boy Arpad (Fisher Stewart) dreams of a promotion. All of these plots work together seamlessly and still provide showcase songs for everyone.
MTH produces stripped down versions of musicals done “face front” with microphones in stands. This style of staging chooses to focus on the music, with minimal blocking and choreography. There are a few numbers that broke out into full-on dancing, most notably in the restaurant where a fastidious headwaiter (Evan Lovelace) tries to maintain a romantic atmosphere. I found that a little out of keeping with the rest of the production. The “face front” style is rigidly enforced, and actors rarely look at each other, so for everyone to suddenly be dancing and singing and actually interacting was a bit jarring for me.
The whole cast sang and acted beautifully, and the orchestra sounded wonderful. It just made me wish I could see this talented cast in a full production of this lesser-known gem.
SHE LOVES ME runs through April 9th. For more information visit mthkc.com.