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Review: She Loves Me (Marriott Theatre)

By Chicagotheaterbeat @chitheaterbeat

Review: She Loves Me (Marriott Theatre)

Despite strong cast, production lacks romantic depth

Review: She Loves Me (Marriott Theatre)

Review by Catey Sullivan

As romances go, She Loves Me is as pretty as a glossy-page perfume insert. In the Marriott Lincolnshire production, It is also just about as deep.

Review: She Loves Me (Marriott Theatre)Based on Miklós László's 1937 play Parfumerie, She Loves Me follows the love story of Georg and Amelia, clerks at a "parfumerie" who loathe each other at first sight. The wrinkle: The two have been falling in love via mail, in a pen-pal correspondence where they know each other only as "Dear Friend." The problem: Love or hate, the relationship between Georg and Amelia has all the heat of store-brand vanilla ice cream. In director Aaron Thielen's staging, their relationship progresses from bland to blah.

The problem isn't with the cast. Alex Goodrich (Georg) and Elizabeth Telford (Amelia) are actors with the kind of open-faced charm that makes you want to both root for them and knock back a few beers with them. But in Joe Masteroff (book), Sheldon Harnick's lyrics and 's music, there's nothing that evokes fireworks.

Although Thielen has decorated She Loves Me with costumes and a set filled with colorful visual references to Eastern European folk art (embroidered stockings on the men, petticoats and babushkas on the women, bedroom furniture stenciled with flowers), the plot could have unfolded anywhere. That said, the show's otherwise generic modernity clashes with all the fairytale illustrations built into the clothes and the set.

Review: She Loves Me (Marriott Theatre)Review: She Loves Me (Marriott Theatre) Review: She Loves Me (Marriott Theatre)Review: She Loves Me (Marriott Theatre) Review: She Loves Me (Marriott Theatre)Review: She Loves Me (Marriott Theatre)

As in the movie "You've Got Mail," Georg and Amelia have a two-pronged relationship. They love each other on paper. They despise each other in person. The plot is hooked to when and how each will realize that the hated coworker is also the beloved letter writer. Since this is a romantic comedy, it's not a spoiler to note that they eventually fall into each other's arms literally as well as figuratively.

The problem lies in part with Masteroff's book. It gives us no reason for Amelia and Georg to dislike each other intensely. Each one bitches and kvetches about the other for seemingly no reason. When they finally get together, there's a similar lack of credible motivation. They antagonize each other until they don't, but there's no believable emotional journey taking them from enemies to lovers. Their words change, but that's about all.

The music doesn't help matters. Harnick and Bock's score embodies the essence of rom-coms in that it's pleasant but not terribly striking. There are songs about a trip to the library, vanilla ice cream, and the weather - all pleasant enough but nothing that'll rock your world. The strongest musical thru-lines is an innocuous little refrain performed by all the store clerks wishing their costumers a good day. It's nice, and little more.

Review: She Loves Me (Marriott Theatre)Review: She Loves Me (Marriott Theatre)Review: She Loves Me (Marriott Theatre)

The most memorable element of Thielen's production is set designer Jeff Kmiec's recreation of a pastel-and-confection colored cosmetics shop. There's an impressive array of shiny, pretty bottles, jars and tubes. The counters are whisked away for the relatively rare dance numbers in the show, which Thielen (who also choreographs) has laden with references to Hungarian folk dances.

Review: She Loves Me (Marriott Theatre)

For a play of such little substance, Parfumerie has had a surprising shelf life. Along with She Loves Me and the 1998 movie "You've Got Mail," Lászlo's play inspired the 1940 Jimmy Steward flick "The Shop Around the Corner," which was later musicalized in the 1949 movie musical "In the Good Old Summertime" starring Judy Garland. Clearly it has something going for it. Darned if I can figure out what that is.

She Loves Me continues through June 18th at Marriott Theatre, 10 Marriott Dr., Lincolnshire (map), with performances Wednesdays 1pm & 8pm, Thursdays & Fridays 8pm, Saturdays 4:30pm & 8pm, Sundays 1pm & 5pm. Tickets are $50-$60 (with discounts for seniors, students & military), and are available by phone (847-634-0200) or online through Ticketmaster (check for half-price tickets at Goldstar.com ). More information at MarriottTheatre.com. (Running time: 2 hours 15 minutes, includes an intermission)

Photos by Justin Barbin and Liz Lauren

Elizabeth Telford (Amelia Balash), Alex Goodrich (Georg Norwalk), Terry Hamilton (Mr. Maraczek), David Schlumpf (Steven Kodaly), Jessica Naimy (Ilona Ritter), James Earl Jones II ( Ladislav Sipos), Grant Killian and Johnny Rabe (Arpad Laszlo), Steven Strafford (Headwaiter), Lillian Castillo, Aaron Holland, Johanna McKenzie Miller, Jeff Pierpoint, Laura Savage, Allison Sill, Cassie Slater, Jason Slattery, Brandon Springman, James Rank (ensemble), Mandy Modic (swing)

behind the scenes

Aaron Thielen (director, choreographer), Matt Deitchman (music director), (set design), Sally Dolembo (costume design), (lighting design), Robert E. Gilmartin (sound design), Sally Weiss (props design), Patti Garwood (music supervision and conductor), Justin Barbin , Liz Lauren (photographers)

Review: She Loves Me (Marriott Theatre) Review: She Loves Me (Marriott Theatre)Review: She Loves Me (Marriott Theatre) Review: She Loves Me (Marriott Theatre)Review: She Loves Me (Marriott Theatre) Review: She Loves Me (Marriott Theatre)Review: She Loves Me (Marriott Theatre) Review: She Loves Me (Marriott Theatre)

Tags: 17-0503, Aaron Holland, Aaron Thielen, Alex Goodrich, Allison Sill, Brandon Springman, Cassie Slater, Catey Sullivan, Chicago Theater, David Schlumpf, Elizabeth Telford, Grant Killian, James Earl Jones II, James Rank, Jason Slattery, Jeff Kmiec, Jeff Pierpoint, Jerry Bock, Jesse Klug, Jessica Naimy, Joe Masteroff, Johanna McKenzie Miller, Johnny Rabe, Laura Savage, Lillian Castillo, Mandy Modic, Marriott Theatre, Matt Deitchman, Miklos Laszlo, Parfumerie, Patti Garwood, post, Robert E. Gilmartin, Sally Dolembo, Sally Weiss, Sheldon Harnick, Steven Strafford, Terry Hamilton

Category: 2017 Reviews, Catey Sullivan, Marriott Theatre, Musical, Sheldon Harnick


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