She Loves Me**** (Landor Theatre)

Posted: February 10, 2015 in Theatre

She Loves MeHungarian writer Miklos Laszlo’s 1937 play Parfumerie has inspired no fewer than three Hollywood films as well as this 1963 hit Broadway musical, so it is best to take care before dismissing any version of it as just trite and sugary nonsense. Robert McWhir’s production always treads a thin line between the delightful and the yucky, but stays on the right side of it, largely due to the strength of its performances. The quaintness of the story’s setting helps to distance it from the modern world – in Maraczek’s, a grand Budapest perfumery in the inter-war years, things were done very differently and everyone was so much more innocent. Heaven knows, central Europe in the 1930s was no bed of roses, but the illusion that it was as such mists reality throughout the show. Joe Masteroff’s book follows the original play fairly closely – a young couple, Amalia and Georg, meet through a lonely hearts advertisement and exchange romantic letters anonymously without knowing that they are in fact feuding colleagues working in the same store. As Amalia, classical style singer Charlotte Jaconelli, out to prove that there can be life in showbiz after losing a television talent contest to a dancing dog, is making her professional debut in musical theatre. It is a brave plunge into the deep end and, happily, she carries the role off with ease; she gives an enchanting performance and her singing is heavenly. John Sandberg is equally affecting as her suitor, the shy, awkward Georg; the vocals may stretch him a little, but he knows how to sell a song and, in particular, he nails the best-known one (that of the show’s title) emphatically. This is a musical with little dance and few major scene changes, thereby suiting McWhir’s Landor well. Maraczek’s is evoked cleverly in David Shields’ period designs and in the bustle of well-to-do ladies parading in and out, being fussed over by staff. The store has an array of (with one exception) too-nice-to-be-true characters, all perfectly cast – Ian Dring is a kindly Mr Maraczek (he also doubles up as a flamboyant maitre d’hôte); Emily Lynne and David Herzog are chirpy sales clerks; Joshua LeClair is delightful as Arpad, the ambitious delivery boy and, in the not-so-nice role, Matthew Wellman makes a slimy Lothario. The songs (music Jerry Brock, lyrics Sheldon Harnck), in typical 1960s Broadway style and accompanied here by just piano and cello, are generally no better than so-so, but, most importantly, they slot into the narrative seamlessly and help the show to flow. This is a musical which needs to be sold on charm and there is enough of it in this production to thaw even the coldest of hearts. Book early for St Valentine’s Day!

Performance date: 7 February 2015

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