‘She Loves Me’ – a delightful festive production from the Playhouse

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Amalia Balash (Monqiue Hafen) and Georg Nowack (Jeffrey Brian Adams) in ‘She Loves Me’

The San Francisco Playhouse lights up the festive season with a simply delightful musical – Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harnick’s She Loves Me. It’s the kind of show that gives you a lovely warm glow, with plenty of laughs, infectious tunes and some marvelous dance routines. No surprise then that it was nominated for six 2016 Tony Awards – including Best Revival of a Musical on Broadway – and won the Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle Awards for Outstanding Revival of a Musical.

The book – written by Joe Masteroff in 1978 – is based on a story which obviously hasn’t lost its magic since it formed the basis of Miklos Laszlo’s play, Parfumerie, which premiered in 1937. Other adaptations include the 1940 James Stewart film The Shop Around the Corner, the 1949 Judy Garland film In the Good Old Summertime, and Nora Ephron’s You’ve Got Mail in 1998.

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Amalia Balash (Monique Hafen, right) sells a music box to a customer (Katrina McGraw)

The action takes place in and around Mr Maraczek’s Parfumerie in Hungary in the year 1937, and focuses on two of the clerks in his tightly-run little emporium – Georg Nowack (Jeffrey Brian Adams) and Amalia Balash (Monique Hafen) – both of whom have been corresponding with each other as the result of an advertisement in a lonely hearts newspaper column – and are playing out a ‘love affair’ with each other by letter. When Amalia joins the staff of the Parfumerie, her relationship with Georg is abrasive to say the least – neither, of course, being aware that each of them is the ‘Dear Friend’ to whom each has been writing romantic missives, and with whom each has fallen in love.

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Steven Kodaly (Rodney Earl Jackson Jr) seduces Ilona Ritter (Nanci Zoppi)

Susi Damilano, Producing Director of the Playhouse delivers yet another beautifully paced, razor-sharp production, again demonstrating her admirable directorial skills. Her casting is faultless – from the superb performances of Adams and Hafen, to the equally splendid portrayals of Michael Gene Sullivan as Mr Maraczek, Nanci Zoppi as Ilona, Rodney Earl Jackson Jr as Kodaly, Nicholas J Garland as Arpad, Joe Estlack as Sipos and Brian Herndon as the Waiter.  Also impressive is the ensemble, none of whom misses a trick in the versatility of their various portrayals. The flurry of activity in the Christmas Eve sequence is a hoot!

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Waiter (Brian Herndon, left) is unnerved by the clumsiness of his staff (Joseph Estlack)

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Dancers (L-R: Ayelet Firstenberg, Leah Shesky, Jason Rehklau) let their hair down in the restaurant

Huge bouquets too to Music Director David Aaron Brown and his great musicians – all perched on balconies as part of the set – scenic designers Playhouse Director Bill English and Jacqueline Scott who worked their now legendary magic with brilliantly conceived sets, and to choreographer Kimberly Richards for some fabulous dancing.

There’s nothing like a good old-fashioned Broadway musical to tie a great red ribbon round your festive activities – this production of She Loves Me does the job perfectly.

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Christmas Eve shoppers go wild at Mr Maraczek’s parfumerie (L-R: Nanci Zoppi, Ayelet Firstenberg, Katrina McGraw, Leah Shesky, Jeffrey Brian Adams, Joseph Estlack, Jason Rehklau)

She Loves Me runs at the San Francisco Playhouse until January 14, 2017. For more information, and for tickets, visit the SF Playhouse website.

 

Photographs:  Jessica Palopoli

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