Theater Review: SHE LOVES ME (Palm Canyon Theatre)

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by Jason Mannino on May 12, 2023

in Theater-Palm Springs (Coachella Valley),Theater-Regional


Palm Canyon Theatre closed their 22/23 season this past week with a warm-hearted, inspired mounting of She Loves Me, one of the most romantic musicals ever written.

She Loves Me is the 1963 melt-your-heart musical based on Hungarian playwright Miklós László’s Parfumerie and features one of the most adorable pairs of battling sweethearts ever seen on stage, Amalia Balash and Georg Nowak. The book is by Joe Masteroff, while lyricist Sheldon Harnick and composer Jerry Bock — the musical geniuses behind the masterful Fiddler on the Roof — contributed the songs. The music throughout She Loves Me is bouncy, melodic and fun.

The story centers around the colorful employees of “Maraczek’s Parfumerie,” the fine destination for ladies’ cosmetics in Budapest. The boss, Mr. Maraczek (Sheldon Safir) knows the goldmine he has in the store and expects only the best from his staff: brassy Ilona Ritter (Demetria Clemons in a standout performance), who keeps entangling herself with the worst kind of men; Steven Kodaly (humorous and charming Eric Stein-Steele) is currently her paramour and, yes, one of the worst kind of men; Ladislav Sipos (masterful local theater veteran Tom Warrick) is the anxious husband and father who desperately needs to keep his job; Arpad Lazlo, the bicycle messenger turned shop clerk (Nick Wass, surprisingly charming and solid given he is typically a stage manager and projection designer throughout Coachella Valley); and Georg Nowack, a hopeless romantic who would prefer to be seen as anything but (a rich and profound portrayal by the endearing Ben Reece, who commands the stage in a way that is refreshingly grounded — he feels like the rock to this considerable ensemble).

The employees traverse days in the shop charming guests, competing for sales and expressing daily gripes. But the parfumerie is thrown into disarray upon the arrival of Amalia Balash, a clever woman who needs a job, but is distracted by her search for true love. Amalia and Georg take an immediate dislike to each other. After work, they find solace in writing to their respective lonely-hearts-club pen pals. Of course, neither one suspects that the person they love on paper is the same person they detest on the job. If the story sounds familiar already, you may know it from the film adaptations of the play: The Shop Around the Corner (1940), In the Good Old Summertime (1949), and You’ve Got Mail (1998). As Amelia, Se Layne possesses one of the best soprano voices I have seen on stage in the Coachella Valley. Her vocals shimmer with warmth, and with comic prowess she beautifully executes one of the show’s most iconic songs, “Vanilla Ice Cream,” making her character both ethereal and loveable.

One of the shows strengths is that every character is showcased in this true ensemble piece, and Director Derek Shopinski creates a sense of community from his actors. In one number, “Romantic Atmosphere” — which is about setting the right mood for those trysting in their restaurant — a surly headwaiter (Adam Heiter) and his clumsy busboy (Jackson Enzler) hysterically sing and dance as Shopinski skillfully creates memorable stage pictures, just as he does with a frantic shopping experience, “Twelve Days to Christmas,” which features ensemble members Neil Badham, Denise Rooney, Lisa Walters, and Sanai Wright sounding great under Steven Smith‘s musical direction.

J.W. Layne’s stellar set adds to the production quality; he effectively has us being in front of the shop one moment and then, with a turning of four panels, suddenly being inside the luxurious boutique.

photos by Sonny Von Cleveland

She Loves Me
Palm Canyon Theatre, 538 North Palm Canyon Dr @ Alejo Rd
Thurs at 7; Fri and Sat at 8; Sun at 2
ends on May 14, 2023
for tickets, ($17-38), call 760.323.5123 or visit PCT
Palm Canyon Theater’s 2023-2024 season can be found here

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