Review: She Loves Me

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By Shannon Fox, @shannonfox

 

This past Friday, as I sat in the audience during intermission for the first public preview of Roundabout Theatre’s Broadway revival of “She Loves Me”, I overheard my friend in the seat next to me talking about the show with her neighbor.  She had just explained that we were there to support “Georg” (Nerd 001’s role in the show).

 

“Oh, isn’t he just WONDERFUL?” her neighbor replied, with a delighted grin.

 

Isn’t he indeed, adorable elderly gentleman, and what a perfect way to sum up the show in general: just wonderful.

 

“She Loves Me” is an musical about a parfumerie (basically the old school version of Sephora) in 1930’s Budapest called Maraczek’s, and the people that work there, particularly Georg (played by Zachary Levi) and Amalia (played by Laura Benanti).  But, more importantly, the show is about love- falling into it, falling out of it, and everything in between.  You may be a bit familiar with the plot if you’ve seen 1940 film The Shop Around the Corner, since the musical was based off of it, or You’ve Got Mail, which was a modern-day adaptation.  And that’s one of the many charms about “She Loves Me”: it’s completely timeless, while being a good ol’ fashioned musical in the best of ways.

 

It helps that this revival has been perfectly crafted under Scott Ellis’s direction.  The set alone is gorgeous, its art-deco style as colorfully bright and cheery as the show itself, as is the choreography from Warren Carlyle.  In fact, I found myself smiling giddily throughout the entire performance, heart-warmed by the story and music and enchanted with the cast.  And what a cast!

 

Jane Krakowski (that you may know best from “The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” or “30 Rock”) as Ilona, a salesclerk that doesn’t have the best luck with love, particularly stood out to me- her number with Kodaly (a hilariously smarmy Gavin Creel) was one of my favorites and a comedic highlight of the show.  It’s also a glorious portrayal of “showing ’em how it’s done”: Krakowski’s dancing is impressive and absolutely flawless.  Also, can we all just praise-emoji how gorgeous she is?

 

But honestly, everyone in the cast shines, from Peter Bartlett’s hysterical performance as the Head Waiter, to Nicholas Barasch’s endearingly sweet and ambitious Arpad.  Michael McGrath is a perfect patriarchal figure as Sipos, and Byron Jennings is both intimidating and warm as Maraczek himself, and even heart-breaking at times.

 

And then there’s our leads.  Laura Benanti (you may have caught her as Astra/Alura on “Supergirl”) is basically Broadway royalty, and it’s easy to see why here: as Amalia, she jumps from sweet romantic numbers to physical comedy to arguing with Georg and makes it look effortless.  Her soprano is second-to-none, and even beyond all that, she’s stunningly beautiful and graceful, which makes her hilarious turn in “Where’s My Shoe?” all the funnier (and another one of my favorites from the show).

 

As for Zac?  Well, that adorable elderly gentleman had it right: he’s absolutely wonderful.  He sings, he dances, he’s incredibly charismatic, he’s funny, and ultimately proves over and over again that he can hold his own on a stage full of some serious Broadway veterans and then some.  He’s also making a name for himself with showstopping numbers (see “In Love With You” from “First Date” for a brief history)- the eponymous number towards the end of the show’s second act is a delight, from the choreography (seriously, Zac does a thing that a man of his height shouldn’t be able to successfully do) to the song itself.  He’s phenomenal, and I couldn’t be prouder of him.  Bravo, Nerd 001.

 

All in all, it’s an adorably sweet and charming show with a stellar cast and delightful musical numbers (if not addictive: you’ll be humming “Thank You, Madam” for DAYS, trust me); a perfect, happy escape from reality, if you ask me.  If you don’t leave the theater skipping around with heart-shaped pupils, you might be a cyborg.  PREPARE TO BE HEART-WARMED.

 

Random Notes from Shannon’s Brain

(If you’ve read any of my previous reviews for The Nerd Machine, you know that I can’t help but add some randomness to the end of each one, and “She Loves Me” is no different, so… here we go!)

 

  • I have this weird fascination with rotary phones that borders on a slight OCD reaction where I have to spin the dial whenever I see one.  There is one in Maraczek’s, and I WANTED TO SPIN IT SO BAD.  It was killing me.
  • Pay attention during Sipos’ number, “Perspective”- there’s a neat little trick with a box that I NEED TO KNOW how it’s done.
  • Did ice cream used to be kept in Chinese food take-out boxes? This seems like a bad idea.
  • Ugh, the COSTUMES.  Can men go back to wearing suits all the time, please?  But wait, I don’t want to wear dresses all the time.  Never mind.
  • Okay, Nicholas Barasch, who plays Arpad, is only SEVENTEEN.  Wait until you see his number: for such a youngin’, the guy’s got talent for DAYS!
  • They’ve got some really cute merch out for the show: make sure you take a look when you visit!
  • Amalia’s reaction when she is given ice cream is everything.

 

“She Loves Me” will run at Studio 54 until June 12th, 2016.  Tickets are $52-$147 and are available on Roundabout Theatre’s website.  GO SEE IT!  You won’t regret it!

 

 


    7 Comments

  1. Tammy HodgesFebruary 22nd, 2016 at 11:21 am

    Thank you Shannon! Your review put me right in the theatre and makes me even more excited to see it in April.

  2. PhyllisFebruary 22nd, 2016 at 1:01 pm

    WHAT THING!? No no don’t say. I’ve got my tickets. I’ll see … Eventually ? Don’t spoil it. So looking forward to my FIRST Broadway show! Your review really whets my antis….ipation though.

  3. AndreaFebruary 22nd, 2016 at 2:10 pm

    Your recaps and reviews are delightful and funny and I love them everytime you do one, Shannon. Thank’s so much, you are fantastic!
    Nice to hear that Zac is doing well on Broadway again, he deserves it so much. Am a bit sad now that I will miss the show (living on another continent is wonderful, innit?), but I hope everyone who gets to see it has a good time. I will have my go at meeting Zac in July when I fly over the pond for my very first ever Comic-Con.
    Again, thank you, Shannon, for the work you do. You da bomb!

  4. SusanFebruary 23rd, 2016 at 1:54 pm

    Dear Shannon,

    Thank-you so much for the lovely review of She Loves Me. I have loved the play since 1978 when I saw the BBC version on Great Performances, and I have tickets to see the new version in March. I’m probably very much like the elderly gentleman that your friend sat next to. He probably knows every note of both the 1963 and 1993 Broadway cast recordings as I do. So far the word-of-mouth has been fantastic, and I particularly enjoyed reading your review because you see the play with such a fresh perspective. Those of us who have been listening to this music for 40 years or more love it when new people discover something we love.

    I was also impressed by the great affection that Zachary Levi’s fans have for him. I know him from Tangled, so actually seeing Flynn Rider in person will be quite intriguing. A very different kind of character from Georg. I looked up other credits and found that he had been in a previous Broadway play, First Date. I found a post on Broadwayworld’s message boards that you might find as interesting as I did. Here it is:

    “I finally got around to seeing FIRST DATE, a little late in the game for a post on here I know.

    The show itself is amusing and entertaining, but ultimately to thin and generic to support a full Broadway production and $140 ticket prices.

    HOWEVER– What a delight Zachary Levi was! He is what inspired me to write this post. I was so impressed by this guys Broadway debut, I only hope he’s not scared away from the stage and comes back soon. I found him so completely charming and lovable. He was such a pleasant surprise! I found it a treat”

  5. Jessica D.February 27th, 2016 at 9:22 pm

    Its been a week since I seen the production and I’m still under its spell. The Cast, the music, the dancing, the script, and the set design–made me feel like this will be my top Musical-Comedy choice from Broadway!!! A few years back, I was introduced to the 1940’s “Shop Around the Corner” with the great Jimmy Stewart. I re-watch that movie during Christmas time every year, and it such a lovely film. I thoroughly enjoyed that the Broadway adaption was consistent with that story with additional songs and a few changes up, that still worked very well for the story. My one tiny complaint was Arpad not being named Pepi (he is a hilarious character in the film). However, Nicholas who plays Arpad, is a sweetheart and did a lovely performance- he’s got a great career path ahead of him.

    Its such a WONDERFUL show! I can’t wait to see it again.

    Totally agree about the clothing and man wearing suits 😀

    Jane was spectacular and after this performance from Laura Benanti, I believe she is the Julie Andrews of our generation (that HIGH Note, dayum). And I agree with all the other cast descriptions. 😀

    Zachary, nerd 001 was stellar. He is a triple threat in this show. After my experience of hearing him sing at Carnegie Hall and listening to the First Date soundtrack, I was so ready to hear more singing from him. And my ear holes were so pleased to hear him sing throughout the show. I have yet to pick my favorite number. That delightful song with choreography in the second act *winks* !! I’m so glad more people are being exposed to his talents.

    Thank you Shannon for your review and I totally agree that everyone who goes to see this show need to be prepared to be heart warmed. I really hope we also get a cast recording.

    And I definitely have to look up if ice cream was served in Chinese take-out containers back then too, such an odd container. & I need to know how they did that trick in Sipos’ number too!!!

  6. Terry AnnMarch 19th, 2016 at 9:13 am

    I saw She Loves Me on Friday the 11th and your review is perfectly on point. I especially love your random thoughts at the end I had several of those myself as I sat mesmerized through the entire show. Zac is outstanding in this element and looks like he has been doing Broadway his entire life.

  7. Priscilla JoMarch 28th, 2016 at 11:22 pm

    Briefly skimmed this review when it was first posted, as I didn’t want too many spoilers. But finally got to see it on Thursday, March 24th. And gosh, was it amazing. I had seen some clips online from broadway.com and theatremania, and ehh.. the audio on the clips were quite poor. So being live in the theater made all the difference. The entire cast, including our beloved Zac was on point! (Although, the audio mix is a different story. Muffled/distorted mix was my biggest disappointment.) But from Zac’s stage presence, vocal abilities, choreo, and chemistry with Laura.. and this applies to the rest of the cast/ensemble as well!
    It was much better than I expected, so I got rush tickets for the Saturday matinee show. Twice in less than 48 hours.

    Another thing I’d like to mention that I didn’t see here or any other reviews (and not sure if it has changed since previews), but at the very end… does Zac have perfect pitch? As he begins singing acapella, then Laura sings her bit, THEN the orchestra joins in. FLOORED ME. BOTH TIMES. The 1963 and 1993 productions do not have that arrangement, neither does the 2011 special reading.

    Oh and stage door twice is a whole other story! 🙂

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