“This may be the best production of She Loves Me I’ve seen,” says Sheldon Harnick, the show’s lyricist, in a surprise speech given during the curtain call. I may not have been old enough to catch the others and I may have missed out on seeing it on Broadway last summer but I have to agree with him nevertheless.
On paper the storyline seems quite simplistic and obvious. Georg Nowack (Mark Umbers) the floor manager of Maraczek – a perfumery – and newest recruit Amalia Balash (Scarlett Strallen), have both answered an advert in a lonely heart’s column and have been corresponding for a while (think You’ve Got Mail and The Shop Around the Corner). At work, neither can stand the other, yet neither one knows anything about the others physical appearance or even their name and you can kind of guess where the story is headed from here.
Fortunately, this isn’t quite the case as the tale take a slight swerve from the expected. Although the storyline is very sweet, it steers clear from mushy sentimentality and is incredibly witty. The songs are fantastically memorable, although this should come as no surprise coming from the same duo who wrote Fiddler on the Roof.
There’s a fantastic scene between Mr Nowack and Miss Balash where the relationship pivots around – he loses his boyish arrogance as an edgy Amalia hysterically rampages around her room; Georg stares on in confusion.
Katherine Kingley’s, Ilona, a hilarious, cockney employee at the perfumery is one of the most entertaining performers to watch. Her straight-talking personality provides a lot of laughs and while watching Amalia and Georg’s tangled love life, you can’t help rooting for Illona’s happily ever after too.
Les Dennis’ Mr Maraczek will melt even the coldest of hearts and Alastair Brookshaw as Ladislav Sipos delivers a surprising message about work ethic despite constantly trying to blend in to the background as he hangs on to his job. The shop’s ambitious delivery boy, Arpad Lazslo (Callum Howells) is completely loveable while Steven Kodaly (Dominic Tighe) is the shop’s egotistical womanizer.
The end of the show is perfectly timed with the Christmas season with the delightful song, “Twelve Days to Christmas” which is beautifully choreographed to show the panic of shoppers in the lead up to Christmas day, something all of us can relate to. That isn’t to say it’s a Christmas show though, it will brighten up any day of the year but since it is December, consider it a Christmas treat!
She Loves Me plays Menier Chocolate Factory until March 4 2017.
Photo: Tristram Kenton