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She Loves Me!

We know a good romantic comedy when we see one, like the Depression-era cinematic gems starring Katherine Hepburn, Cary Grant, and Spencer Tracy, and including the Clinton-era pop film hits, Sleepless in Seattle and You've Got Mail!, starring Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan.

Scotty Shaffer as Georg Nowack
Scotty Shaffer as Georg Nowack
Now roll back the clock thirty-five years prior to You've Got Mail! and you're attending the Broadway musical from which it is drawn, She Loves Me!1 While its original Hungarian roots are evident in the names and some occasional musical themes, it is, otherwise, a seamless classic from the golden age of Broadway.

Romantic comedy, much like tragedy, quickly establishes its likely outcome; yet, in both genres, we are gripped by the journey: one making us cry and sigh; the other making us laugh and smile. In She Love Me!, pen pals from different cities make plans to meet, but before the arranged introduction, they run into each other unawares. If ever there were a premise for highlighting the gap between written and live communication, this is it.

Georg Nowak (Scotty Shaffer) is the store manager at a perfumery in a sophisticated metropolis. It could be Budapest, Paris, New York, or your favorite urban center. He works hard, but lately his boss, Mr. Maraczek (Patrick Sawyer) has been giving him a particularly difficult time. Georg, an average guy, is anticipating the arrival of his pen pal. Meanwhile, his boss hires a new clerk (Amalia Blash [Lindsey Coleman]). You get the drift.

So what is it that makes relationships work? All those eloquent words in personal letters (and emails) are wonderful, but ultimately it boils down to chemistry, a vague and uncharted territory rooted in the here and now. Thus, interesting philosophic questions arise: If Georg and Amalia had not been writing, would they have met; and, if they did meet in those circumstances, would they have been attracted to each other?

Lindsey Coleman as Amalia Balash and Scotty Shaffer as Georg Nowack
Lindsey Coleman as Amalia Balash
and Scotty Shaffer as Georg Nowack
Regardless—in Joe Masteroff's book, with lyrics by Sheldon Harnock and music by Jerry Bock—they do meet, and the rest makes for a fun, humorous, and poignant romp. Coleman's spunky working girl Amalia provides striking contrast to her private romantic self, with her impressive soprano filling Candlelight Dinner Playhouse's expansive proscenium set-up, while Shaffer's Nowack is a loveable schlep (except to his boss), and wry song and dance man, who frets over the liberties he took describing himself to his pen pal.

Amalia and Georg's relationship squalls are echoed in the sub-plots: Ilona's (Beth Beyer) unwise dalliances with co-worker Steven (Brian Burron), as well as Mr. Maraczek's (Patrick Sawyer) domestic trials. Beyer's comedic chops are a hoot, Burron is a slick, duplicitous villain who can soft shoe with the best of them, while Sawyer charts an unexpectedly rewarding arc.

Though a little light on dance numbers, She Loves Me! more than makes up for this with a very sophisticated score and lyrics, as well as sharp social commentary.

Candlelight Dinner Playhouse's presentation of She Loves Me!, directed by Don Berlin, runs through November 3rd. For more information: 970-744-3747 or www.coloradocandlelight.com.

Bob Bows

Footnote:
1 The musical is the third adaptation of the play Parfumerie by Hungarian playwright Miklos Laszlo, following the 1940 James Stewart-Margaret Sullivan film, The Shop around the Corner, and the 1949 Judy Garland-Van Johnson musical version, In the Good Old Summertime.

 

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