Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN
She Loves Me is the musical romantic comedy that lends one to understand the meaning of being secretly in love with someone else. As two anonymously write love letters to one another, they don’t realize that they actually know each other in real life, and despise one another. Will they fall in love, or miss out?
The musical is the third adaptation of the play Parfumerie by playwrite Miklos Laszlo. The musical premiered on Broadway in 1963 and subsequently had productions in the West End in 1964. It would surface in 1998 as the Tom Hanks-Meg Ryan feature You’ve Got Mail. The musical will also be receiving another revival on Broadway for next season.
Director Dennis Yslas has outdone himself. This show was incredible and I was in awe as I watched all the moving parts come together to produce one of the best shows I have seen all year.
Music Director Cherie Dee Mega commanded the music. Mega highlighted the talent of the operatic cast and used them in ways that had the audience on the edge of their seats awaiting the next score. Each and every musical number was better than the one before it, and while it is easy to start strong, this was one musical that ended stronger than it started.
Choreographer Joshua Sherman did an astounding job with the cast to highlight each of the musical numbers. The choreography only enhanced the show and allowed for the mood to be heightened at every turn. In "Twelve Days to Christmas" the stage held every cast member who worked seamlessly with one another to demonstrate one of the most beautifully choreographed songs in the whole show.
Tina Barrus' costume design was brilliantly done. The men of the cast were dressed in full suits that enhanced each of their body types and characters personalities. The three customers were nicely dressed in simple black dresses that were accessorized with hats, gloves, and furs. Ritter and Balash were wearing form-fitting flare dresses that were easy to move in and showed the aspects of their characters perfectly.
Set design by JaceSon P. Barrus was the most favorite set that I have ever seen. The attention to detail and use of the space showed his talent. Each and every scene was carefully designed to move flawlessly together in the short periods of time between the scenes. Barrus’s true talent though was shown in the revolving door on the back stage that moves the audience to the inside of the perfumery and outside. Further, the moving display cases were so interwoven within the show that they enhanced every element within the performance.
G. Aaron Siler with light and sound design was meticulously planned and executed. The soft lights with red undertones enriched the love story that unfolded on stage. The carefully selected blue lights during scene changes only made one anticipate what would come next. The use of full spotlights and a dark room highlighted solos and drew the attention exactly where it needed to be. Sound was perfectly matched with the actors’ vocals and never overpowered. Timing was never an issue and the sounds only enhanced the performance.
Property design by Soni Barrus was the epitome of attention to detail. Each and every prop was perfectly selected to show the details of the musical. I loved the antique perfume bottles and powder boxes in the display cases that showed the expensive nature of the perfumery.
G. Aaron Siler, as Ladislav Sipos, did a superior job as one of the clerks of the perfumery. Through hurried movements, nervous gestures, and vocal inflection, Siler portrayed the unease of the love affairs amongst his fellow employees. Siler used a calm, fatherly tone to help George Norwak to take a risk. His rich voice was displayed well in “Perspective” and Siler let his eyes shine with understanding of what love really is.
Arpad Laszlo, the delivery boy played by Drew Sifford was the comedic relief to the musical. Sifford was a joy to watch as he skipped and moved quickly through the set to his next location. In “Try Me” Sifford’s high energy and strong voice fully portrayed the confidence that Arpad had in himself to deserve a promotion in the perfumery. Sifford’s characterization went beyond vocals to his facial expressions, in particular his hand gestures. He was having fun on stage and it showed through his awesome performance.
Paulie Cocke’s portrayal of Ilona Ritter was remarkable. Her deep, rich, and powerful voice was highlighted in her musical number, “I Resolve”. Cocke had huge facial expressions but continued to contort her lips to show either her joy or disgust with a fellow employee. She excelled in this role with eyes that shined with the joy and glamour of a woman in love as well as scorned.
Steven Kodaly played by Joshua Sherman was the antagonist of the employees in the perfumery. His arrogant nature was perfectly displayed by Sherman’s use of lifting his chin, scowls to the rest of the characters, and tone. Sherman’s vocals are highlighted in “Grand Knowing You” through his deep and passionate plea for what is next in his characters life.
Matt Victory was George Nowak, a young man who was unsure of the woman he was in love with. Through Victory’s self-assured stance he proved his dominance on stage. His widened eyes, smile that went up to his eyes, and a shake of his head to show joy was only the start of his amazing facial expressions. Victory really shined through his inflection and powerful voice in “She Loves Me” and was only enhanced with his charming smile.
Mr. Maraczek performed by Jay A. Cornils is the pushy manager of the perfumery. Cornils nailed the haughty air of Maraczek through his arrogant tone and judgmental facial expressions. In “Days Gone By”, Cornils sang from the depth of his soul to capture the moment in the musical. Cornils becomes Maraczek and there is no denying that this shrewd manager was perfectly cast.
Meredith Browning performance as Amalia Balash was simply outstanding. Her mannerisms are warm and heartfelt when dealing with the customers, and completely opposite with Nowak. She had the presence of the girl next door, but the spitfire energy of a prideful woman. Through her simple smiles, doe eyes, and gentle touches, Browning completely encompasses the mixed up feelings of Balash. Browning’s vocal achievement reigns in “Dear Friend” and “Vanilla Ice Cream”, each one expressive and delightful.
The musical was rounded out by a top notch ensemble. Stormy Witter, Elizabeth Shelton, Haley Nettleton, Jake Kelly Harris, and Noah Foster were superb in their roles. Their vocal talented shone in both “Sounds While Selling” and Twelve Days to Christmas”. Each had their own unique style that only enriched the musical.
Plaza Theatre Company has outdone themselves with She Loves Me. With an amazing set of actors, coupled with the talented artistic staff, this performance will be hard to top. Come and enjoy this musical that will remind you what falling in love is like!