SHE LOVES ME To 18 June.


book by Joe Masteroff music by Jerry Bock lyrics by Sheldon Harnick.

Minerva Theatre Oaklands Park PO19 6AP To 18 June 2011.
Mon-Sat 7.45pm Mat Sat & 26 May, 1, 9, 15 June.
Audio-described 27 May, 28 May 2.30pm.
Runs 2hr 35min One interval.

TICKETS: 01243 781312.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 21 May.

Enjoyable musical in glittering production.
Near the end of this musical set in a late 19th-century Budapest perfume-shop, delivery-boy Arpad is promoted to sales clerk in the Maraczek emporium. Only then do other staff realise they don’t know his name. Proudly he tells them he’s now to be called “Mr Laszlo”.

Ironically fitting, as this musical derives from the play that keeps playwright Miklos Laszlo’s name alive outside Hungary. It’s the basis also for three Hollywood films, including Ernst Lubitsch’s perfect 1940 confection The Shop Around the Corner, where James Stewart and Margaret Sullavan play trusted assistant Nowack, who falls under temporary suspicion, and newcomer Amalia. Every day they keep rubbing each other the wrong way, neither suspecting that the other is the cultured ‘Dear Friend’ with whom they’ve been corresponding.

Dating from 1963 (which also saw The Beatles’ very different ‘She Loves You’), the musical is finely-structured, the characters well-drawn and the setting – certainly here, with Anthony Ward’s shop-window set revolving to distinguish the parfumerie from other locations – a delight.

There’s musical wit, from the shop assistants’ obsequious comment to departing customers to a depiction of increasingly frenzied Christmas shoppers, and a splendidly louche restaurant scene, displaying the exhilarating swirl of director Steven Mear’s choreography.

All it lacks is a killer-tune among the pleasant melodies and striking rhythms. While Fings Ain’t Wot They Used To Be (just revived in London) has a vastly inferior script, a rambling structure and songs incidental to the action, Lionel Bart’s title number sticks in the mind. With She Loves Me you come out humming the idea of the songs, the elegance of the set, the high-quality performances. But not the tunes themselves.

Yet the Minerva magic spreads across a production perfectly fitted to the theatre’s scale. Joe McFadden’s Nowack, earnestly conscientious and nervous in love, and Dianne Pilkington’s Amalia defending herself against emotional bruises by sharp retorts, lead a cast who catch aspects of shop-life.

Like Steve Elias’s Ladislav; knowing he’ll never rise higher he’ll do anything to keep his job. But praise to everyone in a production that, fittingly with a choreographer-director, never puts a foot wrong.

Arpad Laszlo: Gavin McCluskey.
Ladislav Sipos: Steve Elias.
Ilona Ritter: Annette McLaughlin.
Steven Kodaly: Matthew Goodgame.
Georg Nowack: Joe McFadden.
Mr Maraczek: Jack Chissick.
Amalia Balash: Dianne Pilkington.
Keller: Joseph Prouse.
Head Waiter: Lee Ormsby.
Busboy: Joshua Lay.
Mrs Hermann: Charlotte Harwood,
Mrs Varga: Amanda Minihaan.
Miss Konya: Danielle Morris.
Mrs Szabo: Amy Ellen Richardson.
Swings/Tango Dancers: Zak Nemorin, Brenda Jane Newhouse.

Director/Choreographer: Steven Mear.
Designer: Anthony Ward.
Lighting: Chris Davey.
Sound: Matt McKenzie.
Orchestrator: Steven Edis.
Musical Director: Phil Bateman.
Dialect coach: Michaela Kennen.
Assistant director/Assistant choreographer: Nikki Woollaston.
Assistant musical director: Oli Jackson.

2011-05-24 00:11:56

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