Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

September 15, 2015

She Loves Me

Opera House Players, Broadbrook, CT
through September 27, 2015
by Michael J. Moran

Composer Jerry Bock and lyricist Sheldon Harnick are best known for their monster hit “Fiddler on the Roof,” which this company presented last season. But its more modest sibling, “She Loves Me,” has long been respected, in the words of this production’s resourceful director, Meghan Lynn Allen, as a “crown jewel of the golden age of musicals.” And “Good Morning, Good Day” is among the greatest of all opening numbers.

Based on a 1937 play by Miklos Laszlo, the story also inspired several films, including "The Shop on Main Street" and "You’ve Got Mail". The plot focuses on a romance between two pen pals, Amalia and Georg, who’ve never met but later find themselves as fellow clerks in a pre-World War II Budapest perfumery who are often at odds with each other. Other employees provide not only comic relief but contrasting dramas of their own.

J. McCann & M.G. Morales
Bock’s lush score often evokes the Hungarian sound world of Franz Lehar’s operettas, while Harnick’s clever lyrics recall the patter of Gilbert and Sullivan. The cast of 20 singing actors is consistently engaged and compelling. Michael Graham Morales brings a wide emotional palette and a fine singing voice to Georg. Few scenes are more stirring than his exuberant rendition of the title song. The versatile Brad Shepard is avuncular and poignant as Mr. Maraczek, the shop manager.

The standout vocalist is Jennifer McCann, who perfectly captures the neurotic charm of Amalia. Her touching “Dear Friend” and winsome “Vanilla Ice Cream” echo the gorgeous lyric soprano of Barbara Cook, who originated the role on Broadway in 1963, and her comic acting chops make “No More Candy” a highlight of the evening. In smaller roles, Martina Haskins is a hoot as the lovelorn Ilona, Thom Knightlee haughty as the caddish Kodaly, and Joshua Prouser endearing as the ambitious Arpad.

Greg Trochlil’s set design is elegant and simple. Karen Anne McMahon’s choreography is imaginative, particularly in a delightful “Twelve Days to Christmas.” And musical director Steven Cirillo leads a well-drilled and impressively larger-sounding band of four.

This lovely production will appeal to musical theatre audiences of all ages.