If you’ve seen You’ve Got Mail, you know the basic story of She Loves Me. But I have always enjoyed the way it is told by Joe Masteroff’s book, music by Jerry Bock, and lyrics by Sheldon Harnock. Both are based on a play by Miklos Laszlo. Matthew Decker’s direction achieves the high level that we have come to expect from the Villanova Theatre program.
Georg Nowack is a valued employee at Maraczek’s Parfumerie who has been exchanging letters with an anonymous woman he knows only as “Dear Friend.” His fellow employees include: middle aged, family man Ladislav Sipos, young delivery boy, Arpad Lazlo, Ilona Ritter who is having an affair with suave salesman Steven Kodaly. To this comfortable group enters Amalia Balash who aggressively earns a job. As the time passes into the early days of winter, Mr. Maraczek is continually short with Georg, and Georg and Amalia are constantly bickering. As Christmas approaches both Georg and Amalia are prepared to finally meet their pen pals at a restaurant. Georg arrives at the meet and discovers his dear friend is really Amalia. Because of their work relationship he acts like he’s there for another reason and is rude to her. She is devastated, but still believes in the goodness of her dear friend. Act two explains the motivation for the tension between characters, and the audience is sung into a pleasant resolve.
The Villanova cast does a wonderful job telling the story. As Georg and Amalia, Ethan Mitchell and Mina Kawahara are superb. Mitchell embodies the hopefulness of Georg while Kawahara’s gorgeous voice creates a loving character in Amalia. You really want these two to get together. The supporting cast is also first rate. As Kodaly Jerald Bennett is aptly smarmy and Tina Lynch is funny and vulnerable as Ilona. Ladislov Sipos is steady in the hands of Gabe Henninger, while Alex Werthauer is pure energy as Arpad Laszlo. Barry Brait does a stellar job as the waiter in the restaurant as well as his work in the ensemble. The rest of the cast deserves kudos for their attention to completing each scene in whatever parts they play.
Director Decker has also amassed an excellent staff. Colin McIlvain’s set is both attractive and very utilitarian. Alison Roberts’ costumes give us a real feel for the 30’s. Lighting Designer Jerold R. Forsyth and Sound Designer John Stovicek complement the set and costumes to give the actors a great atmosphere to work in. Music Director Peter Hilliard does a wonderful job getting the most out of this talented cast as well as assembling a wonderful orchestra. Rachel Camp’s choreography is subtle and nuanced and gets the best out of the hard-working cast.
She Loves Me runs until November 18th. For tickets and information call 610.519.7474 or firstname.lastname@example.org.