I’ll always be the first to admit that I have some “ultimate weaknesses” when it comes to musical theater, or just any sort of entertainment in general. For one, I adore a good romance, second, I love good ol’ fashioned Broadway numbers, and last but not least, I lose it over a good, well-crafted set piece. So it brings me great joy to tell you that Roundabout’s new revival of the classic Jerry Bock musical She Loves Me features all of those qualities and much, much more.
Many of you may be scratching your head as to what this show even is, but let me assure you, you might know it a lot better than you realize. It is based on the play Parfumerie by Hungarian playwright Miklos Laszlo, and later served as the inspiration for many iconic films such as The Shop Around The Corner, In The Good Old Summertime and most recently, You’ve Got Mail. The basic premise surrounds two shop clerks at a perfume store, who essentially despise each other. But little do they know that the same person they can’t stand is actually the one whom they’ve been sending romantic letters to for the past few months. And as you can guess, shenanigans ensue.
Flashing forward to 2016, She Loves Me has gotten quite the nice treatment. Featuring an all-star cast, including leads Laura Benanti (Sound of Music), Zachary Levi (Chuck), Jane Krakowski (30 Rock) and Gavin Creel (Book of Mormon), everyone here is expertly cast and portray these roles with such professionalism, it is easy to get wrapped up in the magic of their performances.
Of course the stand out is Benanti, who like Audra McDonald, is the closest to musical heaven one can get in a singular performer. She’s a triple threat and more, and her return to Broadway after a five-year absence has been well worth the wait. Levi also is a shining spot in this twinkling ensemble, and proves that he is far beyond just some random TV turned Broadway talent, bringing hints of Jerry Orbach and other male leads of that era to his performance. Krakowski does a fine job in her supporting role, but sticks out mostly for her comedic and dancing charms – which elevate the simplistic of moments to pure hilarious joy.
But what shines just as much as the cast is the set. From mint, pink, and other pastel shades, to the scalloped details and the rich array of props inside the perfume store – it is hard not to get lost in the perfection of every detail that set designer David Rockwell places on the stage. It is a world that immediately transports you into the scene, and considering the amount of lazy projected screens that are taking over Broadway, you could tell how much this audience of theater lovers appreciated the time and effort put into this glorious, physical world brought to life before our eyes.
As for the score, it is classic Bock as his best. With memorable tunes, such as the famous “Vanilla Ice Cream” – in which our leading lady starts to see the positive aspects of her once villainous co-worker – you can see the love and magic that was poured into these pieces back when they were written in 1963, and even after 50 plus years, not a single tune has lost its spark. Though the staging of certain numbers lacked the polish and dedication of others (much of which is due to Scott Ellis’s sometimes lackluster choices, similar to his work on Curtains) the overall energy of the cast and other members behind the scenes ultimately fixed those issues quickly.
To put simply, She Loves Me is one of those rare musicals that is, for the most part, practically perfect in every way. Why? It is the closest one can find to sheer joy in the current climate of Broadway, and gives the community of theatergoers a step back into a time where musicals were fun, carefree, and transported you to places you only thought about in your dreams. Even though the setting of 1930s Hungary is not exactly much of a departure from real life, the charm and magic of this musical is definitely more of a fairy tale than most modern musicals tend to portray. So thanks to the wonderful people at Roundabout, it’s a treat to be reminded of what these kinds of musicals used to feel like, and that during their celebration of their 50th anniversary, they still know how to pick a great show to bring to the masses!
She Loves Me is currently playing at Studio 54 till June 12th, 2016!