I first saw She Loves Me a few years ago and was sorely disappointed. This was the show so many of my friends raved about? But I've just seen a terrific production of it at the Rubicon Theatre in Ventura, a short 45 minutes north of Los Angeles. It was well worth the trip.
She Loves Me is a very delicate little musical based on a story by Hungarian playwright Miklos Laszlo. Prior to this show, the story had been used for the film The Shop Around The Corner and the movie-musical In The Good Ole Summertime. The movie You’ve Got Mail was also sourced in this story, about two people in the same shop who write letters (in the modern adaptation, emails) to each other unknowingly, while all the time being adversaries at work.
She Loves Me won five Tony Awards in 1963 and nine Tonys for the 1993 revival. The story is charming, as all those adaptations attest, but the music is sublime. The book of the musical is by Joe Masterhoff. The lines are funny but also poignant. Just when you think the story is going to get sentimental, Masterhoff changes the mood with a joke. The music, which is now classic, is by Jerry Bock with lyrics by Sheldon Harnick. The style is lush musical-comedy romanticism, nothing like another of their classic musicals, Fiddler On The Roof. Some of the well-known songs are “Will He Like Me?,” "Vanilla Ice Cream,” “Dear Friend,” and “She Loves Me.”
The cast at the Rubicon couldn’t be better. Kevin Symonds, a favorite of mine, plays the male half of this duo, Georg Nowack. His style is reminiscent of Jimmy Stewart, awkward but charming, bumbling yet sexy. I couldn’t think of a better person to play the role. On the distaff side we have Kim Huber as Amalia Balish. Barbara Cook was legendary in the role and a tough act to follow, but Huber is up to the challenge, bringing her own particular sense of fun to the proceedings. Her voice is soaring, moving, and sweet. She is perfect for the role.
The whole cast is very well matched to their characters. Beverley Ward scores as a sassy but dim Ilona Ritter. George Ball is a stolid Mr. Maraczek and Nathan Holland is a hysterically funny waiter. Jamison Kodaly, Mathew Rocheleau, and Larry Cohn add excellent support. The director is Kirby Ward, who does a smashup job of moving people around on a limited acting area.
This joyous musical played through September 28th at the Rubicon Theatre. If it comes back, make it a must-see!