“She Loves Me” is not a super well-known piece of theater, but it’s is a Tony award-nominated musical with good bones and a delightful history. Village Theatre’s production honors its complex score, performed by actors and orchestra who are up to the challenge.
Village Theatre’s highly professional production of the timeless musical opened Feb. 28 to an appreciative audience. It runs through March 22 at Everett Performing Arts Center.
Originally produced on Broadway in 1963 under the direction of the iconic Harold Prince, the show is based on the 1937 play “Parfumerie” by Budapest playwright Miklos Laszlo.
This play also inspired the 1940 MGM movie “The Shop Around the Corner” starring James Stewart and Margaret Sullavan, as well as the 1949 musical film “In the Good Old Summertime” with Judy Garland and Van Johnson. And most will remember the 1998 Nora Ephron romantic comedy “You’ve Got Mail” with Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan, which pays homage to “The Shop Around the Corner,” and its pen-pal exchanges.
“She Loves Me” also enjoyed two Broadway revivals, in 1993 and 2016, garnering even more Tony nominations. The score (by Jerry Bock) is beautiful and the love story (by Joe Masteroff with lyrics by Sheldon Harnick) is enchanting and hilarious.
Village director Karen Lund makes the most of this 1930s story about two “lonely hearts” pen pals who unknowingly become competing sales clerks at a perfume shop. It’s a story about connection, self-doubt and, in the end, trust in love.
“I think that’s part of the reason this story keeps coming back — in different forms with different settings — because regardless of the decade, all of us are seeking that joy which can only come from being truly known and truly loved,” writes Lund in the play program’s director’s note.
Scenic designer Matthew Smucker also has a big winner with the set. The audience applauded when the shop’s exterior walls opened to reveal an elegant sales room, harking to the bustling retail boutiques and department stores that are now fading into history.
Most of the main characters are played by actors familiar to Village audiences.
Eric Ankrim (“String”) and Allison Standley (“Into the Woods”) are the pen pals. These well-known Seattle-area actors do great justice to the rom-com and its music.
Rafael Molina (“The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee”) plays the shop courier, Eric Polani Jensen (“Fiddler on the Roof”) is the shop owner, and Randy School (“My Fair Lady”) and Taryn Darr (“Chicago”) are the shop’s other clerks. Mark Emerson, well known in regional theater around the country, makes his Village debut.
The audience also got a kick out of ensemble members Cassi Q Kohl, Anasofia Gallegos and Be Russell as the shoppers, as well as Christian Quinto, Matthew Posner and Tony Lawson in other roles.
A shout-out here to R.J. Tancioco, who grew up in Mountlake Terrace and who directs many of Village Theatre’s pit orchestras. “She Loves Me” was a bit on the tough side musically, and Tancioco and his musicians were brilliant.
The Everett opening-night audience included a fair share of youth, which is a bonus at any performance. With so many Snohomish County students already involved with musical theater at their schools, the Village Theatre shows ought to be packed. Discounted “rush” tickets are available to students at the box office on the night of each performance.
Also available from Village are three-show subscriptions, which offer a 20% savings off single-ticket prices. If you’re going to buy a ticket to “She Loves Me,” it might be worth it to add short-season tickets to “Hansel & Gretl & Heidi & Gunter,” which plays Everett April 24 through May 17, and “The Wedding Singer,” which will be seen locally from June 26 through July 26.
If you go
Village Theatre’s “She Loves Me” is showing through March 22 at the Everett Performing Arts Center, 2710 Wetmore Ave., Everett. Perfumery shop clerks Amalia and Georg have never quite seen eye to eye, but what they don’t know is that they have already fallen in love — through a “lonely hearts advertisement.” Tickets are $45-$85. Call the box office at 425-257-8600 or go online to www.villagetheatre.org.
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