Silhouette Stages’ production of “She Loves Me” with book by Joe Masteroff, lyrics by Sheldon Harnick and music by Jerry Bock, produced by Jeremy Goldman and directed by Stephen Foreman is presently playing at Slayton House, in the Wilde Lake Village Center in Columbia, Maryland.
If the plot seems familiar, it is. It is based on a 1937 play “Parfumerie” by a Hungarian playwright, and the plot has been used in the films, “The Shop Around the Corner,” “In the Good Old Summertime” and “You Got Mail.” It first opened in its present form on Broadway in 1963 with several award-winning revivals, most recently in 2016.
It is perhaps the simple plot and the basic sweetness of the characters that make it so popular. Amalia Balash (Kelly Rardon) and Georg Nowack (Brad Davis) work at a perfumery owned by Mr. Maraczek (Matt Scheer). Neither of them has any idea that they have been writing love letters to each other after seeing a lonely-hearts posting in the paper. They do not use their names, signing only “Dear Friend.” By mail, they are in love, but in person, they seem to rub each other the wrong way. Their coworkers and friends include the dumb but sweet Ilona Ritter (Angelica Peaco) who is having her own on again off again romance with another clerk, Steven Kodaly (Kevin James Logan). Also, at the shop is the worried, middle-aged Ladislav Sipos (Michael Tan) and the energetic delivery boy, Arpad Lazlo (Justin Diaz).
As Act I draws to a close, the two correspondents have agreed to meet for the first time at a romantic café. The headwaiter (Christopher Kabara), who worries more about keeping the sultry atmosphere than the taste of the food, is a great source of comic relief.
There are more romantic entanglements which come to head due to an anonymous letter to Mr. Maraczek revealing infidelity by his wife with an unnamed clerk.
The ending is predictable, but getting there is entertaining. Silhouette Stages’ productions are top-notch, and “She Loves Me” is no exception. The talented cast with their amazing voices, slick choreography and some brisk pacing of the musical numbers would be the envy of many professional groups.
Oddly, the only recognizable song from the show is the title song, made popular in the 1960s by Jack Jones and later by Dionne Warwick. Most of the songs are, what I would call, dialogue set to music, or patter music. They are pretty and tuneful, but the words are so intertwined to this particular show that they are meaningless sung outside the musical. There are a couple of exceptions to this besides the title song (“Will He Like Me?” and “Dear Friend”).
Silhouette Stages’ productions are top-notch, and “She Loves Me” is no exception. The talented cast with their amazing voices, slick choreography and some brisk pacing of the musical numbers would be the envy of many professional groups.
Rardon’s Amalia is both feisty and sweet. From her spunk in landing a clerk’s job to her heartbreak when her “Dear Friend” from the letters does not appear at the café, Rardon has the audience rooting for Amalia. Her humorous song, “Where’s My Shoe?” is perfectly sung and staged.
The chemistry between Georg and Amalia is definitely there due to the talents of Rardon and Davis. Davis as well makes his often-maligned salesman a character we want to find love and success. He also has the show-stopper, “She Loves Me.” Davis’ rendition does just that.
Peaco in her portrayal of Ilona Ritter, the easily led young woman looking for romance, is brilliant due to her comedic timing and marvelous voice. Her two featured songs “I Resolve” and “A Trip to the Library” are memorable, and her diction unfaltering which enabled me to hear every line of the very witty lyrics.
Logan has just the right amount of smarminess in the role of Kodaly who keeps Ilona dangling in their on again, mostly off again, romance. Logan is wonderfully pompous in his solo, “Grand Knowing You.”
Matt Scheer who has been in a variety of roles for Silhouette Stages also is excellent as Mr. Maraczek. The proprietor is slightly older than most of his employees, and Sheer shines as he sings and dances in “Days Gone By.”
Tan’s performance as Ladislav Sipos, the middle-aged clerk clinging to the job that supports his rather large family, brings life to this nondescript man. Sipos has worked a long time at the shop, and the other employees are his second family. However, Tan’s subtle performance makes this man very real to us, especially in his song “Perspective.”
Diaz as Arpad Lazlo, the 16-year-old delivery boy with lots of ambition, has a tremendous amount of stage presence. His enthusiasm captures your attention whenever he is on stage. Diaz is a high school student in Columbia. He shows great theatrical potential. He is fantastic in his big number, “Try Me” when Arpad tries to convince Maraczek to promote him to clerk.
One of my favorite characters is Kabara’s Headwaiter. His song, “A Romantic Atmosphere” sung with the Busboys (Maggie Mellott and Logan Snyder) and the Ensemble is clever, well-choreographed and highly entertaining. It’s a minor role that Kabara fleshes out and makes special.
The rest of the cast includes some fine singers, dancers and actors. The remaining Ensemble consists of Robert Certain, Dana Bonistalli, Twila Marie Duarte, Sarah Kalafos and Ande Kolp.
Foreman’s direction and choreography are top notch. It’s never heavy handed, and he keeps the pacing quick and light. He has just the right touch for this show.
Andrew Zile’s musical direction also allows these wonderful singers to show their stuff.
Foreman and Nicholas Carter have created a wonderful set with a turntable that changes from a street in front of the shop to inside the perfumery itself. They also use moveable platforms for the smaller scenes, for instance, the one in Amalia’s flat. All went smoothly including a moveable lamppost.
Deana Cruz-Conner is the costumer as well as the make-up and hair designer. The costumes looked like Hungary in the 1930s. They also added color and texture to the overall feel of the production.
Atticus Cooper Boidy and Maggie Urban are responsible for Lighting Design. Again, the lighting helps create, not just the time of day, but the time of year.
Ben Kinder’s Sound Design keeps the music (pre-recorded) behind the performers. That allows us to hear every word they sing on and off stage.
“She Loves Me” will win your heart. This bright and upbeat production should not be missed.
Running time: Two hours and 30 minutes with an intermission.
“She Loves Me” plays weekends through Sunday, October 27, 2019, at Silhouette Stages performing at Slayton House Theatre in Wilde Lake Village Center— 10400 Cross Fox Lane, in Columbia, MD. For tickets, call the box office at (410) 637-5289, or purchase them online.