Theater Review: SHE LOVES ME (San Diego Musical Theatre at Horton Grand Theatre)

Post image for Theater Review: SHE LOVES ME (San Diego Musical Theatre at Horton Grand Theatre)

by Milo Shapiro on February 25, 2020

in Theater-Los Angeles,Theater-Regional


Ah, love. As hard to find as ever, but so satisfying when it is. But what did the ancients (20th-century people) do to find love before Tinder, eHarmony, and the like? Joe Masteroff’s book takes us to the simpler days of Lonely Hearts Clubs, when people exchanged letters (on paper!) with the opposite sex in search of romantic connection.

We find ourselves in a fancy perfumery in 1934 Budapest. Our genteel staff primarily dote upon society women needing their high-end beauty supplies. Mike Buckley’s parfumerie set is superb, creating a real feeling of being in front of the shop one moment and then, with a rapid turning of four panels, suddenly being inside the luxurious boutique.

Georg (Joshua David Cavanaugh) is the top-ranking salesman at Marachek’s, dutiful to his profession, but harboring a secret: He has been writing to a woman and, via her letters, is falling in love with her sight unseen. The shop’s chief competitor has just shut down and Amalia (Allison Spratt Pearce), one of their best saleswomen. lands a job with Mr. Marachek (Jeffery Arnold Wolf). We quickly discover that she is the other half of Georg’s letter exchange. Such wonderful fate, no? No, not when the two bump heads right from the minute that they meet, unaware that they are each others’ secret love.

The story is a delight, with plenty of laughs and just enough twists. A subplot of a troubled romance between two other employees, Ilona and Steven (Sami Nye and David Šášik) adds a lot of fun and cause for some great singing and dancing. You might not have known that the setting is Budapest without having read this review, since director Richard Israel has chosen to pass on having the cast do accents. The location is insignificant, though, so the choice may have been wise. What he does capture well is the old-world flavor of shopping as a exquisite and charming experience for the upper crust.

Don Le Master’s musical direction is spot on. Readers of my other reviews may have noticed a recurring theme of frustration with SDMT’s band’s volume drowning out lyrics. Happily, in this production, the level is perfect. Loud enough to be thoroughly enjoyed, yet we never miss a word of Sheldon Harnick’s witty and often fast-paced lyrics, which are so enjoyable matched to Jerry Bock’s uplifting and sometimes-intricate tunes.

Besides strong voices in the key roles (with the standout being Ms. Pearce’s ability to sing both operatically and down-and-dirty), the overall ensemble is terrific. In particular, the madrigal-like harmonies in “Sounds While Selling” and “Twelve Days to Christmas” are lovely. Lauren Haughton’s choreography makes excellent use of small space, particularly in the hilarious “A Romantic Atmosphere.”

While the five-time Tony-nominated 1963 Broadway run lasted nearly a year, SDMT’s production closes on March 8, so don’t delay in catching this lovely trip to yesteryear to find out if, in the end, she loves him.

photos by Ken Jacques photography

She Loves Me
San Diego Musical Theatre
Horton Grand Theatre, 444 Fourth Ave
Wed & Thurs at 7:30; Fri at 8; Sat at 4; Sun at 2
ends on ends on March 8, 2020
for tickets, call 858.560.5740 or visit SDMT

Comments on this entry are closed.