Loving Letters in the Romantic Musical “She Loves Me” at Bethany Stage
She Loves Me” is a lovely little musical love story based upon a premise that has been popular in ‘the shop around the corner’ and ‘in the good old summertime.’ Two young people begin corresponding through a lonely hearts advertisement in the papers and fall in love through their letters. Sent anonymously to a ‘dear friend’ neither knows the identity or appearance of the other. As this romance reaches the point of a meeting one of them discovers the identity of the wonderful pen pal. She is the girl at work who is not quite so wonderful in person. The plot is timeless and nowadays it comes more often electronically with that attention getting little bing from the computer that says ‘you’ve got mail’ with cyber love letters. This edition is based on the 1937 play “Parfumerie” by Hungarian playwright Miklós László. The book for the musical is by Joe Masteroff and the music is by Jerry Bock with lyrics by Sheldon Harnick. The action takes place in Budapest, Hungary.
Bethany Stage is putting on the delightful show directed by Elizabeth Dragoo, Artistic Director at the theatre. Dragoo also choreographs, and in the small intimate space, much of the basic movement must be choreographed as well as the exciting dance numbers. Jeffery Johnson directs the music as well as performing on piano in the on-stage orchestra. The lovely music wafting from the orchestra is the work of Johnson on piano, Heather Wiskersham and Theresa Kluge on violin and Jenn Bounds on cello. Audra Faust produces.
Starring Ronn Burton as Georg Nowack, fascinating man of letters, “She Loves Me” is full of wonderful songs that showcase not only Burton’s vocal talent and acting skill, but also capitalizes on the remarkable skill of Laura Himes who portrays the object of his affections, Amalia Balash. Burton and Himes complement one another beautifully on stage, Himes displaying her amazing vocal range and Burton displaying his excellent vocal timing.
Much of the action takes place in the perfume shop where Amalia Balash has just landed a new job as a clerk working with the head clerk Georg Nowack. The other clerks in the shop each have their own story, as a subplot that adds to the overall romance in the production. Steven Kodaly is the man about town lady killer type and he is played by Lauden Baker. Ilona Ritter is also a clerk/bookkeeper and she is charmingly played by Hope Chancey. These two are quite an item; Ilona Ritter is quite taken by the bad boy, love ‘em and leave ‘em attitude of Steven Kodaly, while he is just too much of a bad boy to carry it off. Ladislav Sipos is the slightly older and wiser clerk and he is effectively played by Charlie Monnot.
Reigning supreme over all of them is Mr. Maraczek, the owner of the store. Lance Overdorff plays the slightly blustery but generally warm-hearted businessman sensitively. Arpad Laszlo is the young delivery boy speeding about on his bicycle with products to deliver to important ladies in Budapest. Hunter Williams aptly carries the youthful role in his back pocket.
The two ‘friends’ are scheduled to meet for the first time at a romantic café where the waiter, Tyler Keupen chastises them for not being quite so loverly as the reputation of his café demands! There are also six ensemble cast members who portray patrons of the shop and café. Rachel Aylworth, Megan Billings, Cody Dent, Brooke Howard, Chesney Johnson and Matthew Moreillon all lend their considerable talent to this production.
And an excellent production it is. Not only do Burton and Himes sing beautifully and act brilliantly they have a genuine chemistry to communicate to the audience. Chancey, Monnot and Baker stand out with assurance and believability as well as vocal and dancing talent. Overdorff is very much a treat to watch, while Williams is amusingly ambitious. The entire ensemble performs exceptionally well, especially considering the limited amount of space on stage.
With everyone on stage there are times that feel like one is gazing at a masterpiece through a small magnifying lens. With the small stage and the audience seated close it’s not possible to appreciate the overall grandeur that must be occurring—can’t see the forest for the trees.
Otherwise, “She Loves Me” is a lovely, timeless show and Bethany Stage brings a lot of talent to bear creating a lovely experience. The show only opening on Thursday, October 24 runs Friday, October 25 and Saturday, October 26, 2019. There is also a Sunday matinee. Curtain for the evening performance is at 7:00 pm and Sunday’s matinee is 3:00 pm. Already there are only a few more opportunities to catch “She Loves Me” and seating is limited. The theatre is located at 6632 N. W. 36th Street in Bethany Oklahoma. The entrance is in the rear and there is plenty of parking available. For tickets visit www.showtix4u.com or call 866-967-8167. Also visit their website: www.thebethanystage.com and like Bethany Stage on facebook at facebook.com/thebethanystage/ for information.