Parfumerie is a Hungarian comedy written by Miklos Laszlo, set during Christmastime in 1937 in Budapest Hundary, about two bickering employees of an upscale bath and beauty boutique who, unknowingly, have been building an anonymous romantic relationship through letters to one another for two years. This beloved classic has been adapted to film several times including You’ve Got Mail with Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan, and The Shop Around The Corner with Margaret Sullavan and James Stewart, and In the Good Old Summertime with Judy Garland and Van Johnson. It’s also been musicalized in Sheldon Harnick and Jerry Bock’s She Loves Me. Director Leslie A. Kobylinski revives the original version, adapted by Edward P. Dowdall, into an aesthetically pleasing, cozy, funny production, just in time for the holidays.
1st Stage’s theater was made for this show for Steven Royal’s set is perfection as his ‘shop’ fits the stage space so naturally and realistically. There is a more-than-slight appeal to simply walk onto the stage and ask about the prices and products. To the right, a display shelf containing perfumes in a variety of shapes and shades, to the left is the counter with the large, golden and old fashioned type of register that belongs in an antique shop. The store’s display and entrance, facing the backdrop, is lit up by ornamented Christmas trees under arched glass windows that show men and women rushing by outside. Andrew Jorgensen provides lovely lighting.
The opening scene begins with many costumers shopping around. The employees are distinguished by their dress: the men wear white coats that carry an air of expertise, like perfume scientists, and the women wear fur shawls around their shoulders. The costuming is brilliantly done by Cheryl Patton Wu and is in harmony with the 30’s fashion down to its hairstyles, like the pulled back hair together with high pinned curls that hip-swinging humorous clerk Ilona Ritter (Leigh Taylor Patton) wears. Patton steals the show!
Parfumerie provides great performances from the entire cast. All characters have personality and their roles serve one another in unity to represent the boutique. There is great teamwork in this wonderful production.
Joshua Dick and Amal Saade are passionate as the mail-crossed lovers, George and Amalia. Their portrayal show how deep-seated the emotions are – unfortunately beginning with anger, and eventually ending up with love. Horvath shows his disregard with Amalia and her importance for the shop, each time he exaggerates her name in a loud, sarcastic tone. While both assert their hatred for each other repeatedly to Sipos, the sage senior clerk (Mario Baldessari), shakes his head at their childish denial of their true feelings – “Dear God, please make this stop!”
Mr. Hammerschmidt, the owner (the grumpy turned sweet Manolo Santalla) unexpectedly toughens his attitude because he himself is going through denial in regards to his marriage and in the loyalty of his employees. Santalla’s performance shows how Hammerschmidt views the group of clerks and himself as more than a business, but also a family because his aggressive behavior is taken out on the people he cares for the most. Matt Boliek plays the back-stabbing “operator’ sleazy Snidely Whiplash-like Steve Kadar, and he’s having a blast playing him. Ben Lurye plays Arpad the young apprentice –who just wants to just get ahead – with charm, assertiveness, and enthusiasm.
Sweet perfume and love are in the air at 1st Stage, and Parfumerie is a sweet success. It’s a perfect holiday gift for the whole family.
Running Time: Two hours and ten minutes, including one intermission.