SHE LOVES ME • A Stellar Musical Production With Timeless Charm

Graces the Stage At Midland Center for the Arts December 3-5 & 9-12th

Posted In: Arts & Entertainment, Theatre,   By: Robert E Martin

29th November, 2021     0

With an ambitious production of the charmed but largely overshadowed Broadway musical She Loves Me slated for debut at Midland Center for the Arts on December 3rd and running Dec. 4-5 & 9-12th, Center Stage Theatre production manager Travis Kendrick and play Director Annette Thornton are busily putting the final touches on what is truly a sparkling holiday production, and representative of the broad-based community engagement the theatre is keen on cultivating.

One of the most charming musicals ever written, She Loves Me is a warm, romantic comedy with an endearing innocence and a touch of old-world elegance. Set in 1930s Europe, the narrative of this irresistible period piece centers upon perfumery shop clerks Amalia and Georg, who don’t see eye to eye. After both respond to a lonely hearts advertisement, they now live for the love letters that they exchange; however, the identity of their admirers remains unknown - a situation they hope to resolve as they dig deeper into their true selves. 

When asked what they feel distinguishes this musical within the lexicon of contemporary American theatre, both Kendrick & Thornton reference its carefully crafted quality and timelessness.

“I wouldn’t classify this as contemporary musical theatre because it feels classical in the sense of nostalgia and feel good warmth that you get from plays written by teams like Rogers & Hammerstein, plus it’s a love story in a non-dated way and is very much a reflection on our modern sensibilities in terms of communicating feelings and things that get in the way of expressing those feelings, with music that is equally brilliant and beautiful,” states Kendrick. "This is a huge part of its charm and appeal."

“She Loves Me is old-fashioned and optimistic, reflects director Annette Thornton, “but It is not nostalgic or sentimental, because the characters are real and fully developed. With a strong book by Joe Masteroff, poetic lyrics by Sheldon Harnick, and beautiful score by Jerry Bock, this production is a musical jewel box of emotions, desires, longings, disappointments, and discoveries.”

“It was based upon a 1940s film The Shop Around the Corner, starring James Stewart and Margaret Sullavan, with screen play by Samson Raphaelson and direction by Ernst Lubitsch. Raphaelson adapted his script from the 1937 Hungarian play Parfumerie by Miklós László. Other versions of the story include a 1949 musical film adaptation, In the Good Old Summertime, starring Van Johnson and Judy Garland and a 1998 film, You’ve Got Mail, starring Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan, so the narrative is trans-generational in terms of familiarity."

“Set in Budapest, Hungary in the mid-1930s, She Loves Me tells the story of ordinary people who are struggling to survive,” continues Annette. “Shops are closing, clerks are fearful of being fired, and customers with money to spend are given the royal treatment. Germany and Russia fought over Hungary during WWII, and by 1945 over a million Hungarian soldiers and civilians – including Jews and Roma – were killed and cities were damaged, most notably Budapest. The audience is aware of this history, but the characters in our musical are making the most of every moment, especially if it involves letters, perfume, champagne, and bath salts.”

So how did such a seemingly entrancing tale of societal decadence and passionate romantic discovery pre-dating Cabaret get lost under the radar?“

"What I find fascinating is how the authors, Bock & Harrick, wrote She Loves Me and were also working on their masterpiece, Fiddler on the Roof," relates Annette, "They wanted Jerome Robbins to direct, but he wasn’t available for that year, so She Loves Me opened in 1963 and was directed by Harold Prince. The following year Fiddler came out in 1964 and was directed by Robbins, with book by Joseph Stein.   Consequently,  She Loves Me kind of got lost in the shuffle of circumstance. It didn’t play that long and while it was nominated for several Tony Awards, in that particular year of 1963 Hello Dolly swept up all the honors.  All I can say personally, is what I find so amazing about She Loves Me is what a strong and compelling story it is about ordinary people. It deals with characters in a passionate way and is one of the best librettos I’ve ever worked with.”

“On a different note, one of the exciting challenges is dealing with the incredible orchestra we have for this production, because it’s a lot larger than the bands we feature in typical musicals,” adds Kendrick. “With a full orchestra the challenge is coordination because thanks to technology, the conductor can see the onstage actors on monitors  for cues and is working with the orchestra in a studio, as opposed to onstage or backstage. They do this on Broadway now and a lot of the time will have orchestras performing in completely different buildings even, so that poses a different type of challenge for us.”

With a cast that consists of Erin Whitield and Steven Holty in the lead roles of Amelia and Georg, rounded out by a roster consisting of Madeline Vallazza, Tony Lynch, Brady Katshor, John Tanner, Jon Hook, Dr. Lauren Jackson, Aja Jade Philpot, Drew Hoag, Elizabeth Reinhardt, Lauren Neil, Mary Louise Monroe, Melissa Bornemann, Missy Lewis Hobart and carolers, David King and Mandy Winchester, Annette is thoroughly pleased with what each actor is bringing to their roles.

“Steven brings a strong, creative mind to his portrayal of Georg and a beautiful vulnerability, because he is shy but smart and doesn’t have a lot of experience with relationships,” notes Annette. “Meanwhile, Erin possesses such a beautiful soprano voice and both actors feed off each other, so there is a strong synergy at play.”

“The most challenging component is developing a certain style working with a musical comedy with realism - there is an energy involved with it that we are striving to capture and given all the moving parts involved, I’m pleased with the way the cast helps and supports one another.”

“It’s a wonderful important and fulfilling experience for all involved to be part of something like this coming out of the Pandemic,” concludes Annette. “I know it will be a joy for the audience because the message this production carries is equally happy, touching, and poignant.”

The CenterStage Musical Production of ‘She Loves You’ runs from December 3-5 & 9-12th at Midland Center for the Arts, 1801 W. St. Andrews, Midland.  Performanes are at 7:30 PM with 3:00 PM Sunday matinees. Tickets start at $25 for adults and $19.50 for students. You can purchase tickets by visiting  MCFTA.org.

 

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