The other night I watched a musical that was new to me. Not new to other people, She Loves Me (book by Joe Masteroff, lyrics by Sheldon Harnick, and music by Jerry Bock) first hit Broadway in 1964, and is opening again next spring. The Hungarian play on which it’s based was also the basis for the 1998 romantic comedy movie You’ve Got Mail.
The current production, in the Amphitheatre at Faculte St Jean (across the street from La Cite), by Foote in the Door Productions, is directed by Barb Mah, with music direction by Michael Clark. The setting, a 1930s perfume shop in Budapest, was simply evoked with shades of pink and green in backdrops, counters, and sales-staff shopcoats. The shop seemed like the equivalent of something like The Body Shop or Lush – selling a variety of necessities and luxuries, focusing on customer experience, and doing a huge business in presents before Christmas.
As in the usual workplace-set story, there’s a cast of characters that includes a boss (James Toupin) with some unreasonable demands and prejudices, an eager-to-please errand boy (Sam Banigan), and a loyal sidekick (Dustin Berube), and in this case there’s also some sub-plot material in the affair between co-workers (Christina O’Dell and Mitch Caddick). The story soon focuses on Georg (Russ Farmer), a senior employee mistrusted by the boss, who confides that he’s been writing letters through a lonely-hearts correspondence club to Dear Friend.
On a busy day in the shop, then, in bounces Amalia (Ruth Wong-Miller), costumed in a beautiful peacock shade of blue that stands out dramatically from the rest of the show palette, and she quickly talks herself into sales work with a very funny demonstration. Amalia is also a member of the Lonely Hearts correspondence club, and you can guess the broad strokes of where the story goes from there.
My favourite bits of the show were some of the ensemble numbers with dancing, the stylized couples in the restaurant with the snooty waiter (Kent Sutherland), and the Twelve Days of Christmas shopping crowds in the store. Six musicians behind the scenes provided accompaniment, atmosphere, and extra entertainment, and the singing was delightful. Ruth Wong-Miller has a strong pleasant soprano voice and is particularly well cast in this show. The part with her jumping on the couch in pajamas is also charming.
The last show of the run is tonight (Saturday 28 November) at 7:30. If you haven’t seen it yet, they should have tickets available at the door, and it’s a lot of fun!