Therry Dramatic Society. Arts Theatre. 6 June 2014
There have been so many good musicals on in the last year that I was hoping this one would be a stinker so I could once again show off my acerbic wit and biting satire. How disappointed I was to instead be in the presence of perhaps the most delightful musical of them all.
She Loves Me has at its heart yearning and unrequited love, and all the accidents and misfortune that go with it.
We join the service staff of a quaint and charming parfumerie of 1930s European vintage as they greet each other in the early morning for another day at work. The musical is based on Miklos Laszlo's play set in his own time in his native Budapest. The play has inspired three movies - including 1998's You've Got Mail - and this 1960s Broadway musical by Joe Masteroff, Sheldon Harnick and Jerry Bock which you must see at the Arts Theatre.
A young woman sings her way into a job in the cozy shop much to the chagrin of the manager. It turns out they have been corresponding anonymously for some time, and how they twig onto that is the main business of the narrative.
I had a smile on my dial from start to finish. Did anyone see Kneehigh Theatre's Brief Encounter last year? She Loves Me has all the quirkiness, kindness, sadness, magic and love of that superb professional production. Musical Director Martin Cheney and his orchestra handled the sharp changes in style with alacrity - from Hungarian waltz to Bolero. The unexpected was expected. Director Patsy Thomas perfectly cast the show and with choreographer Madeline Edwards had the whole thing moving beautifully. It was enchanting, captivating and exquisite.
The entire cast was evenly strong in all of voice, movement and realisation of character. Lauren Potter, as one of the correspondents, and Sarah Nagy, involved in a misjudged love subplot, exuded incredibly vivacious and nuanced personae, and sang me into another world. I just loved them both. James Reed as the manager and co-respondent needed to demonstrate subtle, yet open emotional turmoil, which he did with clarity. The busy Buddy Dawson was once again awesome, this time as a cad. His dancing and vocals skills were shining and his unique use of speaking voice was masterful. Tim Taylor as the eldest employee easily engendered compassion and his musical number was quite different. John Greene made Mr Maraczek a character easy to empathise with. Andrew Crayford dangerously could steal every scene he is in and Mitchell Smith as the young and ambitious delivery boy projected a fetching optimism. Buddy Dawson's exit dance scene with a cane was a highlight. Potter's and Reed's ice cream scene with all that business in the tiny bedroom was a scream, and Nagy's comic vignettes were terrific. All the other parts were performed to a comic, movement and musical T. Bravo to you all!
And the costumes! My word. Chief costumier Gilian Cordell and her crew have a show to really be proud of. The '30s frocks and coats, and Mr Maraczek's and Kodaly the cad's suits were absolutely impeccable. Each and every shopper was dressed for the high street. Norman Caddick's and Patsy Thomas's parfumerie was such a detailed and functional facsimile that I wanted to shop there.
As for the director and for actors, the job is to find the humour, find the love and find the conflict in each and every scene. She Loves Me has done it for me, with lyricism and debonair flare. Double Bravo!
When: 5 to 14 June
Where: Arts Theatre