She Loves Me

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Photo: Joan Marcus Review
Charming. Enchanting. Endearing. It’s almost a guarantee that these words will apply to any production of “She Loves Me,” the 1963 musical about two shop clerks in 1934 Budapest who are unknowingly in love with each other. And such adjectives should absolutely be used to describe the Roundabout Theatre Company’s second Broadway revival of this confection (both directed by Scott Ellis), now at Studio 54.

But this time let’s add comical. Maybe even hilarious. While Ellis’ top-notch cast does justice to Sheldon Harnick and Jerry Bock’s delicious score, I don’t think Joe Masteroff’s book has ever seemed this funny. The extraordinary Laura Benanti exhibits a gift for priceless timing, self-deprecation and even physical abandon that helps melt some of the ice away from snippy salesclerk Amalia Balash. Of course, Benanti can sing and act like few others, making perfect monologues out of her main numbers, “Will He Like Me” and “Vanilla Ice Cream,” while trilling high C’s like nobody’s business.

Luckily, she’s well matched by the adorkable Zachary Levi as her perfumery co-worker and mystery pen pal (and yes eventual lover) George Nowak, who goes from grumpy to giddy to gleeful in 2 ½ hours. He’s suitably frantic expressing his nerves about meeting his “dear friend” (who is really Amalia) in the tongue-twisting “Tonight at Eight” and justifiably joyous exclaiming the title number.

Great as they are, they can almost barely compete with that expert comedienne Jane Krakowski as the slightly dumb, supersweet blonde Ilona, who ultimately rejects the preening lothario Kodaly (a convincing Gavin Creel) and finds true love in a most unexpected place. (Ok, it’s a library, and her rendition of the second-act showstopper “A Trip to the Library” is just heavenly!). Fellow Tony winner Michael McGrath makes the most of the often thankless role of co-worker Sipos, earning guffaws with the ideal glance or line reading; young Nicholas Barasch can turn any frown upside down as he sings “Try Me” to his bedridden boss Maraczek (a fantastic Byron Jennings); and Peter Bartlett camps it up outrageously as the frustrated headwaiter of the Café Imperial in “A Romantic Atmosphere.”

All this fun happens on David Rockwell’s gorgeous series of period-appropriate sets, primarily the dollhouse-like Marazcek’s, populated with dozens of irresistible glass bottles you’ll want to steal on sight. But one does wish for a bit more lavishness elsewhere, from Jeff Mahshie’s merely pleasant costumes to the rather meager size of the hard-working ensemble to the relative smallness of the fine orchestra led by the great Paul Gemignani. Even more sadly, Warren Carlyle’s choreographic skills rarely are allowed to come to the fore. (Then again, this has never been a dance-heavy show.)

Still, these are mere quibbles in the overall scheme of things. I love this production of “She Loves Me” and I’ll wager 10 and 6 that you will as well.
By Brian Scott Lipton

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Laura Benanti, Zachary Levi, Jane Krakowski, Byron Jennings, Gavin Creel, Nicholas Barasch, Peter Bartlett, Michael McGrath, Cameron Adams, Alison Cimmet, Justin Bowen, Preston Truman Boyd, Benjamin Eakeley, Sara Edwards, Michael Fatica, Gina Ferrall, Jenifer Foote, Andrew Kober, Laura Shoop, Jim Walton

Open/Close Dates
Opening 3/17/2016
Closing 7/10/2016

Preview Open/ Preview Close Dates
Preview Opening 2/19/2016
Closing Open-ended

Box Office

Theatre Info
Studio 54
254 West 54th Street
New York, NY 10019