Civic Light Opera of South Bay Cities is starting its 20th season with Bock and Harnick’s beautiful love story She Loves Me. This “perfect musical” is based on a Hungarian play called Parfumerie by Lazlo, and the story is familiar to audiences through several films, including The Shop Around The Corner with James Stewart, In the Good Old Summertime staring Judy Garland, and the 1998 film starring Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan, You’ve Got Mail.
From the team that gave us Fiddler on the Roof comes the charming tale of two lovers known to each other only by mail, and one of best scores in musical theatre. Between the original and the revival there is a history of 14 Tony Award Nominations, and seven Olivier Awards for the British revival.
Stephanie A. Coltrin directs the current revival with superb musical direction by Daniel Gary Busby. Heather Castillo is the choreographer and the sets are by Christopher Beyries, lighting by Darrell Clark, costumes by Christa Armendariz, and sound design by John Feinstein. Overall the design elements are lovely, especially the interior of the shop, and the sound of the full orchestra is sublime.
The singers all have good voices and several people stand out. Mark Edgar Stephens makes a fine smarmy ladies’ man and the object of his desire, Iona Ritter (Leslie Margherita), is just terrific. Todd Neilson is stolid as Ladislav Sipos, though his accent tends to wander (I am not sure why he has an accent when no one else does). Mark Oka does a nice turn as the headwaiter. The three ladies who are the customers of the Parfumerie are spot on.
My problem lies with the two leads, Suzanna Hall as the scattered Amalia Balash, and Jason W. Web as Georg Nowack. They don’t seem to have any chemistry. This may be due to the fact that Ms. Hall is playing her character at such a frenetic pace that it is hard to care for either one of them. The delivery boy (Ryland Dodge) is also guilty of this overplaying.
But all in all it is a nice start to what is scheduled to be South Bay’s "adult season" (according to Executive Producer James A. Blackman III). The rest of the season includes Company, Light in The Piazza, and Thoroughly Modern Millie. She Loves Me plays at South Bay until March 6.