By: Paulanne Simmons
The musical, She Loves Me, which premiered on Broadway in 1963, is the third adaptation of Parfumerie, by Hungarian playwright, Miklos Laszlo. It followed two films, in 1940, The Shop Around the Corner and in 1949, the musical In the Good Old Summertime. After the Broadway production, the ever-popular story of two Budapest boutique employees who fall in love through their letters but can’t stand each other on the job became the source material for another film, the 1998 You’ve Got Mail.
Zachari Levi, Laura Benanti
Neither the original Broadway production nor the subsequent West End production was particularly successful. But in 1993 Roundabout Theatre Company mounted a revival directed by Scott Ellis that didn’t last much longer than the original. And now, twenty-three years later, the company is trying once agin, with another revival directed by Scott Ellis. They seem to be playing it safe by giving the production a limited run that ends June 5.
But guess what? She Loves Me has received fantastic reviews, with one reviewer writing that the show has been “rapturously revived” and praising the “joyful soprano” of Laura Benanti, who plays the female lead, Amalia Balash, as well as Jeff Mahshie’s costumes, Donald Holder’s lighting, and Paul Gemignani’s musical direction, which “combine to create an enhanced, shining reality.”
Much of this complimentary language is entirely justified. But somewhere in the brouhaha an important fact seems to be forgotten. Joe Masteroff’s book is boring and predictable. It’s a twist on the mistaken identity comedy that Shakespeare handled very well, without any of Shakespeare’s remarkable use of the English language. Jerry Bock (music) and Sheldon Harnick’s (lyrics) score is at best passable. And the show’s choreography is almost nonexistent.
Laura Benanti, Jane Krakowski
It may be that in these difficult times, when we fear terrorists from abroad and extremists at home, we need the kind of sweetness that is the currency of this musical. And it is true that Benanti and Zachary Levi as Georg Nowack make an endearing couple, Jane Krakowski is delightfully funny as Ilona Ritter, who is unlucky and careless in love, and Peter Bartlett is appropriately over-the-top as a headwaiter constantly disappointed in his search for perfection. But all this just gilds a lily that isn’t quite in bloom.
It will be interesting to see whether this time excellent reviews will make She Loves Me into the Broadway hit it never was.
She Loves Me is at Studio 54, 254 West 54 St., until June 5.
Photos: Joan Marcus
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