Regional Reviews: Phoenix
Set in 1934, the story centers on the co-workers of a Budapest parfumerie. Amalia Balash, the shop's newest sales clerk, has pinned her romantic hopes on the man she has been writing to for months, even though she has never met him or seen a picture of him. She constantly spars with her fellow clerk Georg Nowack, whom she finds bossy and somewhat rude. While Georg does occasionally lash out at Amalia, that is mostly due to her lateness or the fact that for some unknown reason Mr. Maraczek, the owner of the shop, has turned sour on Georg which has put him on edge. Little do Amalia and Georg know but they are each other's "Dear Friend"the pen pal they have each been writing to.
If that sounds like a familiar plot it's because it's one that has been adapted into several hit films. It started as the play Parfumerie, then the classic films The Shop Around the Corner and In the Good Old Summertime followed, and more recently the Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan romantic comedy You've Got Mail updated the story with emails serving as the form of correspondence. The fact that this story has been adapted so many times shows the resilience of the enchanting story.
Sue Ann Lucius and Allyson Van Patten's co-direction turn this somewhat small and intimate musical into a large show with a big and beautiful revolving set design by Skye Bradsher and a large ensemble cast who are used effectively throughout. With clear and defined direction, the larger scope never impacts the personal story at the center nor does it detract from the show's unique and lively characters.
The MCC cast is quite good, with Ben Robbins and Lana Shumway delivering refined portrayals of Georg and Amalia. Both have good singing voices which achieve beautiful renditions of the score's touching solos and add nice moments to the numerous comical group numbers. Shumway does well in portraying the many layers of Amalia, which include frustration, fear and loneliness. Robbins' solid stage presence instills Georg with strength. Once Mr. Maraczek starts acting odd to Georg, Robbins' portrayal effortlessly changes from firm and sane to one full of confusion and anxiety.
Taryn Tidwell delivers a sweet and sexy portrayal of Ilona, the young woman who is unlucky in love. As the delivery boy Arpad, Joshua Jensen is full of charm and energy with a sweet voice that excels on his solo "Try Me." Matt Ortega is appropriately arrogant and self-assured as the womanizing clerk Kodaly, and Danny Blankemeier is fine as Sipos, the married clerk who constantly worries about losing his job. As Mr. Maraczek, Matt Madonna is kind and caring. The role of the waiter in the restaurant where the dear friends plan to meet each other for the first time is split into two parts, and Jessica Sinodis and Alex Stabley do well with the insanity of their song "A Romantic Atmosphere," each hitting some impressive notes.
Aurelie Flores' costumes are as colorful, smart and bright as Skye Bradsher's stunning set and Lyle Yanak's lighting wash the stage in an abundance of beautiful colors. Cathy Hauan's music direction draws lovely vocals and harmonies from the cast and her leadership of the large orchestra is superb.
She Loves Me is a sweet concoction of a show with endearing characters and a beautiful score. With a beautiful set design, firm direction, and a fine cast, Mesa Community College's production is a very tasty treat.
She Loves Me runs through November 12th, 2016, at the Mesa Community College Performing Arts Center. Tickets can be ordered at 480 461 7172 or at www.mesacc.edu/arts/events.
Book by Joe Masteroff