She Loves Me

She Loves Me

She Loves Me
Book by Joe Masteroff
Music by Jerry Bock
Lyrics by Sheldon Harnick
Directed by Earl Weaver
Starring Sunny Gay and Terry Farley
UCF Theatre, Orlando FL

The course of love rarely runs smoothly, and in a good romantic comedy its five miles of bad road. Tonight we visit 1938 Budapest and times are tight but somehow Maarczek’s perfumery hangs on. Mr. Maraczek (Jarrette Poore) is officious and bossy; he demands total compliance to his will or else you’re out on the street. Pushy yet desperate Amalia (Gay) barges into a job with an excellent impromptu bit of salesmanship, but she’s immediately at logger heads with senior sales man Georg (Farley.) They fight like cats in a bag so you know there will be a happily ever after; at least until the Soviet tanks arrive. Supporting the romance are some wonderful character actors. There’s Sipos (Joe D’ Ambrosi), the guy with no hair and weirdly pale complexion who gets to belt “Perspective.” Then we have darling and eager Arpad (Evan Jones) who sees opportunity everywhere and even gets promoted to a real last name in Act 2. Finally there’s conniving Kodaly (Julian Kazenas); who sleeps around yet seems ready to lead a troop of Hitler Youth once the next war starts up. That will begin in, oh, a month or two.

Our lead romancers each have some very positive points. Ms. Gay is thin and acerbic, she offers the wise cracking Brooklyn girl feel you see in so many war time Hollywood movies. She can sing plaintive (“I Don’t Even Know His Name”) or silly (“Vanilla Ice Cream”) and remains vulnerable in either mode. Georg is more officious; he’s a Maraczek in training and does a fine job on the title song of sexual triumph in act two (“She Loves Me”). The B couple relation in this is story isn’t a stable one; Ilona (Allyson Rosenblum) is tall and dark and dumped. She’s dating Kodaly but breaks up when he breaks off a date to see another woman. The high point of the show is a scene in a gypsy restaurant that caters to illicit dates; the Head Waiter (Trevor Starr) and his clumsy Bus Boy (Chris Armellino) have some fine physical moments and his tango dancers (Carlos Ashby and Meredith Pughe) are pretty decent. He, too, gets a solo: the very funny “A Romantic Atmosphere.”

Here’s everything a romantic musical comedy should be: a complex and uncertain path to love; a fine set of loveable songs where everybody gets at least one decent solo, and a magical rotating stage done up in a simplified Art Nouveau style that allows actions to flow effortlessly. Highly recommended, and worth seeing with someone you have an eye on.

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