Did She Really Love SHE LOVES ME?

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She Loves Me Musical Zachary Levi Laura Benanti

SHE LOVES ME presented by The Roundabout Theatre on Broadway is literally a story you’ve seen before. If you’ve ever seen Tom Hanks/Meg Ryan's YOU’VE GOT MAIL or James Stewart/Margaret Sullavan’s THE SHOP AROUND THE CORNER, you've heard this story. Boy meets girl, boy and girl strongly dislike each other, but work together, craziness ensues, low and behold they’ve loved each other the entire time, happy ending. It’s actually quite a unique story as far as rom-coms go.

So how does the newest version of this story play out? Luckily, on March 16th, the night before the official opening, I was ableto get a ticket and give it a looksy. And, frankly, I am thrilled I did. The cast is incredibly charismatic, the sets are stunning, and the music is quite charming.

It should be pointed out at my performance Tony-winner Laura Benanti who would have played the main character, Amalia Balasch, was understudied by Laura Shoop. Considering Shoop has some big shoes to fill, she did a wonderful job of pulling on the heartstrings. She stormed the stage in her first scene and won the audience over. In the “girls’ rule” society that we live in, it’s awesome to see a strong female lead who holds her own against the males. Often in romantic comedies, the female character is dithering and reliant on the males. Shoop brought strength and endearing quality to the role of Amalia and the voice to go with it. She sounds essentially operatic in the end of one of her songs, “Vanilla Ice Cream.”

The male lead was taken on by Zachary Levi of “Chuck” and “Tangled” fame. I caught Levi in FIRST DATE a few years back, and even though I have that album on regular play on my iPod rotation, I'm always in awe of his vocal skills. Levi has a natural charisma and “leading man” qualities. He's also one of my favorite stars to meet in person because he always seems so down-to-earth and normal. His rendition of Georg Nowack is ovary-burstingly adorable, even when he’s being a bit of a jerk. I was in the audience with a crowd of high schoolers and you would have thought his fan club was in the balcony. The cheers were screechy and fangirly at every turn of events, and it was cute. On the other hand, you did almost get the impression the young audience forgot they were watching live actors by their over-the-top reactions.

The rest of the cast were no slackers, either. Jane Krakowski plays the alluring, yet unlucky-in-love Ilona. She has the amazing skill of her presence filling the stage when needed, yet fading into the background to allow others to take the spotlight. Nicholas Barasch is witty as Arpad, the shop’s delivery boy. Though young, he holds his own and you can't help but fall in love with his character. The rest of the shop is rounded out by Gavin Creel as the suave, yet slimey Kodaly, Michael McGrath as the family man and low-laying Sipos and the genteel boss Maraczek played by Byron Jennings. The cast fits together like puzzle pieces and draws the audience into their whirlwind world.

As for the sets and music priorly mentioned, I was floored by their craftsmanship and talent. I am an art teacher, so I'm attracted to the illusion of the scenery offers and how immersive they are. My seat in the theater was to the far left near the front, so I was immediately worried when the curtain went up and I couldn't see the entire right side of the stage because of the giant perfume store set in the middle. However, when the set opened like a dollhouse, I was in love. The beauty and attention to detail was outstanding. As the sets moved around, they flawlessly connected into one another and created a bright, joyous background for the actors. I would recommend trying to get a seat centrally located though, so you can see both sides of stage when the shop is “closed.” Overall though, David Rockwell, the set designer, did a beautiful job of creating scenery that could be any little town, anywhere, but unique enough to invoke a storybook fairytale feel for the perfume shop.

I’m not much of a music connoisseur, I just know what sounds good. As far as I know, the orchestra sounded amazing. Wistful, playful and poignant, the music hits all the right cues to play into the story. Paul Gemignani, the musical director, and Larry Hochman, who did the orchestrations, should be commended for sewing the story and music together seamlessly.

Overall, SHE LOVES ME is just right. Not too much mush that dulls the edges and enough wit and comedy that will have the audience laughing aloud. I usually have a male perspective with me (i.e. my husband) to offer the answer to eternal question “is this too rom-com-y for men to enjoy?” In my opinion, it might be a little slow-paced for the casual Y chromosome viewer, but it's interesting and funny enough to keep everybody involved. The only drawback, I would highly recommend outside of the musical itself, is use the restrooms beforehand. It's a two-and-a-half-hour show and the lines for the tiny bathrooms during intermission were insane.

 

The TL;DR: Adorable, sharp-witted, fun musical with a stellar cast which will keep you amused. Go see it and get a little culture. #shelovesme

Grade: 
4.5 / 5.0