She Loves Me will most likely be familiar to you immediately, even if you’ve never seen the musical; the original play it was adapted from, Parfumerie, has in turn been adapted into three films: The Shop Around the Corner, In the Good Old Summertime and You’ve Got Mail. As someone who can repeat full scenes of dialogue from You’ve Got Mail and still gets weepy after having seen it probably 25 times, I was very eager to see the musical, and Cap Rep’s version, directed by their Producing Artistic Director Maggie Mancinelli-Cahill, is a beautiful, touching show, perfect for the holiday season.
Georg Nowack (Michael McCorry Rose) is a clerk at Maraczek’s, a perfume emporium; he enjoys his job and gets along well with the owner, Mr. Maraczek (Kevin McGuire) and his coworkers, but is lonely – lonely enough that he’s taken out an ad in a Miss Lonelyhearts column looking for a correspondent. He’s been writing letters back and forth to a woman he’s never met, called “Dear Friend,” and is sure she’s the one for him. A new clerk, Amalia Balash (Julia Burrows) is hired at Maraczek’s, and she and Georg immediately butt heads; not long after, Mr. Maraczek starts mistreating him. He has a date set up to finally meet Dear Friend, but with the way things are going for him, he’s scared she won’t want him once she meets him in person … and what he finds when he arrives at the restaurant sets everything on a very different path.
Rose and Burrows are perfectly paired as Georg and Amalia. They both have old-school movie-star looks and beautiful voices, and their chemistry crackles. Tracy Jai Edwards, as Ilona, one of their coworkers, takes the spunky sidekick role and elevates it – nothing second-tier about her or her performance. Marc de la Concha brings humor to his role as Ladislav, another of their coworkers (and Georg’s wingman), especially in his song “Perspective,” and David Girard, as Kodaly, another clerk at Maraczek’s, is deliciously unctuous and the character you love to hate. Jimmy Bain, as Arpad, the delivery boy, is a joy to watch, with an amazingly expressive face.
Everything about this production is bright, cheerful and delightful, from Brian Prather’s gorgeous vintage set design to Evan Prizant’s equally vintage and lush costume design to the acting, directing and music. It’s a wonderful choice for this time of year as half of it is set at the holiday season (and anyone who’s worked retail will nod in sympathy and laugh at the scene portraying the rush of holiday shoppers.) It’s romantic without being sickly sweet and funny without being cheesy – and it’s fun to see what made the cut in You’ve Got Mail and what they changed and/or updated for the movie. This is a show to get you in the holiday spirit, and you can’t help but leave with a smile on your face – and in this stress-filled time of year, that’s something we could all use.
“She Loves Me,” Capital Repertory Theatre, 111 N. Pearl St., Albany; through December 24; $65 – $16; Run time: 2 hours and 35 minutes with a 15-minute intermission; http://www.capitalrep.org/