She Loves Me, Still: A Conversation About the Musical’s Past and Present

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By Shannon Fox, @shannonfox

 

By now, you’ve probably heard about Nerd 001’s upcoming return to Broadway with Roundabout Theatre’s revival of “She Loves Me”.  With previews beginning in just over a month and rehearsals already underway, we’re only just starting to get glimpses at what we have to look forward to this spring (thanks largely to social media).

 

But “She Loves Me” has a long and, well, INTERESTING past that has a big part to play in its present and future.  To learn more about it, I attended a discussion about the musical at NYPL’s Performing Arts facility at Lincoln Center this week.  In attendance was Scott Ellis, the director of the current Roundabout revival; David Rockwell, the set designer for the current production; and Sheldon Harnick, a legend in the Broadway community for his lyrical work in not only “She Loves Me”, but “Fiddler on the Roof” and many others.

 

SHELOVESME

(from left to right: Scott Ellis, David Rockwell, Sheldon Harnick, and moderator Michael Paulson, along with all three incarnations of the Playbills for the Broadway runs of “She Loves Me”, including the upcoming revival.)

 

“She Loves Me” is based on the film The Shop Around the Corner, starring Jimmy Stewart and Margaret Sullavan, which itself was based off a play called “Parfumerie” by Miklós László.  If you’ve seen the film You’ve Got Mail with Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan, you’ve basically got the general plot, since that was based off the movie/play, as well.  Set in Budapest in the 1930s, the musical revolves around the employees in a corner shop and their trials and tribulations with love.  But, as director Scott Ellis was quick to point out, the story isn’t about “young love”, but rather the love experienced as an adult.

 

The original production debuted in 1963 at the Eugene O’Neill Theatre (with orchestra seats going for $12 a pop, standard Broadway ticket prices at the time) and, though almost unanimously adored by critics, it was considered a flop and closed only several months after its opening.  Despite that, the show still received five Tony nominations, even winning one of them (“Best Performance by a Featured Actor in a Musical”).  It then appeared only in regional/amateur productions in the States before being revived by, you guessed it, Roundabout Theatre as the non-profit company’s first musical in 1993.  This time around, the show got quite a bit more attention from audiences and the awards circuit, and the number of regional and global performances grew.

 

The show is definitely a labor of love for Scott Ellis, who himself has multiple Tony nominations under his belt for not only his previous work with Roundabout, but for that revival of “She Loves Me” back in 1993.  That’s right, this is Ellis’ second time directing a revival of the show, and he almost passed up the job this time: it was only after a charity reading that he fell back in love with it and changed his mind.  But there was one catch when he signed back on- he was going to start from scratch, which meant new sets, new choreography, new orchestration, new everything.  While he wanted to honor the old productions, he also wanted a refreshed version of the show he had already directed to much acclaim.  For help with that, he turned to Tony-nominated set designer, David Rockwell.

 

We were lucky enough to get a look at David’s animated designs of the set, and it looks gorgeous! He wanted to keep an art-nouveau style while using the most technologically-advanced set movements and equipment, and its incredible- without giving too much away, the set opens up almost like a book.  The parfumerie itself will be impressive, with 550 separate perfume bottles, all in a different color.  We were also given a couple of spoilers for effects and other things in the show that I won’t mention, but I can’t wait to see them in action!

 

In addition, we were also treated to viewings of artifacts from the original production (cue notes, cast notes, etc.) and some of the original music, too.  Harnick’s anecdotes were a delight, and the commentary from Ellis and Rockwell about the new production made me really excited to see what they have in store for audiences this spring.  It was also very sweet to see so many fans of the original production in the audience- if it’s any indication of what’s to come, people are going to ADORE this show.

 

Tickets for Roundabout Theatre’s revival of “She Loves Me” at Studio 54, starring Zachary Levi, Laura Benanti, Jane Krakowski, Gavin Creel, and Byron Jennings, are on sale now and can be purchased HERE.  Previews start on February 19, 2016 and the show will run through June 12th, 2016.


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