‘She Loves Me’…for very good reasons
Filmed broadcast of this year’s production of the 1960s musical will warm the good old wintertime.
Reviewed by Jonas Schwartz
Zachary Levi and fellow cast members
Photos by Joan Marcus
BroadwayHD brought Broadway into the new millennium with its live stream of a Broadway production, She Loves Me, on June 30, 2016. That evening has been edited and presented at movie theaters through Fathom Events. The outstanding Roundabout Theatre Company revival has been blissfully preserved and brought to many unable to come to New York to see the now-closed production.
Based on the 1940 MGM comedy The Shop Around the Corner, as well as an earlier play by Miklós László, She Loves Me tells a familiar story of two colleagues. Georg (Zachary Levi, TV’s Chuck) and Amalia (Laura Benanti, Gypsy) work together at a Hungarian perfumery and have hated each other since their first meeting. Unbeknownst to either, the two have been corresponding through a lonely-hearts club, and each is quite smitten with the other’s letters. If only they knew their “Dear Friend” was their worst enemy.
The original production lasted only 250 performances, yet all the elements of She Loves Me are in top form. Written by the Pulitzer Prize–winning team of Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harnick (Fiorello), directed by impresario Harold Prince, based on a favorite Jimmy Stewart film, starring Barbara Cook, and featuring a Tony-winning performance by Jack Cassidy, She Loves Me should have been a blockbuster. Mandelbaum’s book is filled with plenty of shows created by masters who just failed to capture magic, but all the elements of She Loves Me are at top form. The score is a classic, including a cabaret favorite “Ice Cream,” a riff on Christmas standard “Twelve Days to Christmas” and sexy tango number “A Romantic Atmosphere.” Joe Masteroff‘s book is funny and charming, and despite having two protagonists at war, both characters are loveable and never grate on the audience’s nerves. The show always smelled like a hit. Luckily, both a successful 1993 and last year’s revivals burned the flames for She Loves Me adoration.
Both productions were directed by Scott Ellis and his admiration for the score and book are apparent. Every joyous moment leads to big smiles, as he makes the characters irresistible.
The latest cast is luminous. Benanti never fears looking silly. She’ll dance on a bed, bounce around like Tigger from Winnie the Pooh, and do anything for a fresh joke. Her soprano voice as always is pristine. Levi makes a winning Georg. His voice is strong, he acts like Peck’s bad boy when taunting Amalia, and he even manages summersaults in the title number. Jane Krakowski, always a delight, is darling as the shop worker romancing caddish Gavin Creel. She focuses on the little gestures. She taps her fingers each time she says “optometrist” to make sure she pronounces it correctly. During “Twelve Days to Christmas,” her ritual of prancing into a cloud of perfume like Giselle gets hilariously more labored as the store gets chaotic in last-minute shopping. Creel is devilish as the snide and hypersexual Kodaly.
David Rockwell’s set is a doll house that opens up into the sparkling perfumery. Though this is not a heavy dance show, Warren Carlyle’s choreography is sprightly and sexy, particularly when Krakowski and Creel tango and at the restaurant when the patrons turn dinner into a PG-rated orgy.
This fathom filming, directed by David Horn and edited by Gary Bradley and Laura Young, is never intrusive. The filmmakers allow the performers breathing room and don’t turn the presentation into an MTV rapid-fire horror show in which the audience cannot follow the action because of quick edits and confusing cinematography. The director trusts the production to delight audiences.
For the glory of theater, one performance from every show should be filmed and broadcast to theaters. So many splendid performances are missing and haven’t been savored by more than several hundred a night. One hopes that this trend will expand over time and even to performances from past decades that had been filmed for posterity: Angela Lansbury in Gypsy, or John Raitt in Carousel, or even some of the notorious bombs like Grind or Taboo.
December 6, 2016
Middle photo: Laura Benanti and Zachary Levi
Bottom photo: Gavin Creel and Jane Krakowski
Editor's note: This review was revised to delete an inaccurate reference to "Not Since Carrie."
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