She Loves Me
By Sheldon Harnick, Jerry Bock, and Joe Masteroff
Directed by Alan Bruun
Starring Erin Beute, David Jachin Kelly
Mad Cow Theater, Orlando, FL
In 1935 Budapest, the world was still beautiful even if money was no good. There’s still time to park grand piano in the back of Maraczek’s perfumery and worry about who’s dating who. The only thing more important than a date is a job – Ladislav Sipos (Dennis Enos) sings about it, Steve Kodaly (Ward Ferguson) loses his, and Amalia Balash (Erin Beute) bluffs her way into one. It’s a happy if uptight little circle under Mr. Maraczek’s (Ron Schneider) supervision, even if Georg Nowak (Kelly) doesnâ€™t get along with Amalia as well as he might. They both have an unexpected connection, and as soon as they have their first spat, you know they are bound to fall in love.
“She Loves Me” is a pleasantly old fashioned musical, full of exposition-laden songs, pot-boiling plot twists, and waltz-based music set up on a beautiful and well conceived set. You cheer for the lovers, but it’s the supporting cast that holds your eye. David Alameda’s Headwaiter at the murky CafÃ© Imperial stole the show with his rubbery yet unctuous mixture of disdain and obsequiousness. Ron Schneider’s genially rotund Mr. Maraczek held his staff to high standards, but was just a big teddy bear inside. I found Chad Gneiting’s Arpad Laszlo a bit too over eager, but Ward Ferguson’s oily Kodaly captured the essence of European overachieving charm.
While the songs weren’t the strongest, Steve MacKinnon played a mean grand piano, and was as much a member of the Maraczek business as any of the “real” characters. Songs like “A Trip to the Library” and “A Romantic Atmosphere” all sparkled with our imagined grace of old Europe. The singing matched it – Kelly and Beute were at the best when they sang together, and when they were apart, you wanted them back together as much for the singing as the story. Enos’ big number was “Perspective”, and even though he was a corporate brown noser, he could easily move from selling soap to singing about it. The finale is set on Christmas Eve, but there’s no beating you over the head about happiness or ghosts. These people know happiness is a state of mind, not a date on the calendar. I like that idea.
For more information on Mad Cow, please visit http://www.madcowtheatre.com