Infinity Theatre’s She Loves Me
Three generations of movie lovers have loved She Loves Me. But each has known Miklos Laszlo’s 1937 play The Parfumerie by a different name, and with different stars. Jimmy Stewart turned the story of haters in love into The Shop Around the Corner in 1940. Judy Garland reprised it as In the Good Old Summertime in 1949. And Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks did it again — with the help of Nora Ephron as screenwriter and director — in 1998’s You’ve Got Mail.
You probably know the plot, a play on mistaken identity. Lonely boy (Georg Nowack) falls in love, sight unseen, with a lonely girl pen pal (Amalia Balash). Lonely girl unknowingly ends up getting a job alongside lonely boy. Boy and girl do not hit it off. Sparks fly, but not of the romantic sort. Eventually, of course, the identities are revealed and lonely boy and girl seem fated not to be lonely any more.
In Infinity Theatre Company’s production, the longing and loneliness of Joe Masteroff’s script and Sheldon Harnick’s song lyrics are left by the wayside. Director/choreographer Andrew Rasmussen makes this summer’s version all about spectacle, grand singing and clever choreography.
Complementing the spectacle is Anshuman Bhatia’s brilliant set design. What appears at first as a rather empty streetscape with a nice backdrop opens up like a small jewelry box and folds into itself to reveal the perfumerie’s shop. It folds again and it’s a storage room, then Amalia’s bedroom, then a restaurant and back to the perfumerie. All this is done with walls and staircases that swing open and shut, eliminating breaks in action. The perfectly dressed and painted set works as an apt metaphor since She Loves Me features a small music box as a vital plotline.
Led by musical director Tim Rosser, the band lays down a pace that keeps Act One moving at a rapid pace. Act Two slows down, but that’s inherent in a script that detours to explore two secondary characters rather than progressing the main plot.
The appealing production is a tight staging performed by a strong and confident cast. All are strong singers and performers. Happily Adam Harrington as Georg Nowack is the most genial and fully convincing of the ensemble, not only in his singing, dancing and stage presence but also in his ability to make Georg three dimensional. Analisa Leaming’s Amalia Balash has a beautiful voice and strong stage presence showcased best in her song “Will He Like Me?”
Mark Fishback plays Ladislav Sipos, one of the shop clerks who motivates the plot with his own letter, and he is a delight, skillful in listening and reacting to his fellow performers.
Also delightful is Matthew Patrick Quinn’s over-the-top imperious head waiter, who gives us a hilarious rendition of the song, “A Romantic Atmosphere,” also very well danced by the ensemble company in creatively choreography.
Dick Decareau is Mr. Maraczek , the storeowner. Jackie Washam is Ilona Ritter, another lonely clerk, who falls for womanizing scoundrel Steven Kodaly, played by Matthew Amira. Jimmy Mavrikes is Arpad Laszlo, a bike messenger. All four are strong singers and dancers, commanding the stage with Broadway gusto.
Intern Lauren Wright (last seen as a soloist in Always … Patsy Cline) not only dances well but also strolls about as the violinist.
The talented ensemble of performers who portray shoppers, dancers and café patrons are Chelsey Lynn Alfredo, Max King, Carl Schneider, Andrew Way, Michael Windsor and Lauren Wright.
She Loves Me is well suited to Infinity Theatre’s space and to its ambition of bringing Broadway style musicals to Annapolis.