‘She Loves Me’ is full of many small pleasures
STONEHAM – There’s no chandelier dropping from the ceiling, or dueling witches flying across the stage.
The musical “She Loves Me” at the Greater Boston Stage Company is a series of small pleasures, a love story not fully realized until its very final moments.
The book is by Joe Masteroff (“Cabaret”) and the score by Sheldon Harnick and Jerry Bock but the story has had several previous incarnations, beginning with the Mikos Laszlo play “Parfumerie,” which also inspired the films “The Shop Around the Corner” and “You’ve Got Mail.”
I believe that a director in love with the play he or she is directing will go the extra mile and dot every “I” and cross every “T” to make it the best it can be, and director/choreographer Ilyse Robbins has made it no secret this is her favorite musical.
Robbins has done some truly excellent work at what was until recently Stoneham Theatre, a troupe which had been kind of flying under the radar when it comes to being noticed by theater-goers south of Greater Stoneham.
Gradually, the word has gotten out and with it has come a higher profile for the theater. Robbins has attracted notice with her work and some adroit casting, luring the best and the brightest in the area up to Stoneham.
“She Loves Me” is set in Budapest 1934, and the perfume store long owned by Mr. Maraczek (Tom Gleadow) has an experienced, able staff and each knows his or her role and their products by heart.
That includes longtime salesman and head clerk Georg Nowack (Sam Simahk); Ilona Ritter (Aimee Doherty), handy with prices and figures; the charming but caddish Steven Kodaly (Jared Troilo), a sometime boyfriend of Ilona; and the dependable Robert Saoud as Ladislov, content to keep his head down and provide for his wife and children.
Into the quiet shop comes a woman named Amalia Balash (Jennifer Ellis) seeking a clerk’s job.
Ellis, along with the aforementioned Doherty, have become a go-to duo for directors of musicals, and they were both part of the Huntington’s excellent recent “Merrily We Roll Along.”
Ellis makes nary a wrong turn with her vocal instrument, a gorgeous soprano that turns “Will He Like Me?” and “Dear Friend” into showstoppers. Doherty’s Ilona has some nice comic moments and she also shines in the song “I Resolve.”
Ilona is being double or triple-timed by Troilo’s Kodaly, whose is hard to hate even as his amorous adventures throw the shop into turmoil and threaten its very existence.
Both Georg and Amalia have been corresponding anonymously with increasing intimacy with someone they believe to be the person of their dreams, but it certainly isn’t each other – they think.
They fight like cats and dogs from the moment Amalia’s sales pitch causes Georg to lose a bet, and after Amalia gets hired, things go downhill from there.
Simahk’s low-key Georg becomes more passionate as he anticipates finally finding love in the heartfelt “She Loves Me.”
There’s a very nice job by promising young actor Brendan Callahan as Arpad Laszlo , a delivery boy looking to move up to sales clerk in the song “Try Me.”
And for sheer fun, it’s hard to beat Nick Sulfaro’s hilarious turn as an exasperated headwaiter alongside a bumbling Angelo McDonough in “Romantic Atmosphere.”
Dancer extraordinaire Sarah Coombs (“Dames at Sea”) as dance captain has been entrusted with leading the way in the production numbers and Robbins’ choreography is simply elegant, especially the choreographed and harmonized goodbyes from the staff to their customers, and group numbers such as “Good Morning, Good Day” and “Twelve Days of Christmas.”
Brynna Bloomfield’s perfume store set folds out to display the action inside and turns back in again for street scenes.
Amidst the small pleasures and treasures of “She Loves Me,” there is a jarring bit of violence that almost seems disconnected, but it is almost instantly disregarded to go back to the love story. Through it all, Robbins’ love for the material shines through, and its transfers through her to her cast.
During this holiday season, it’s easy to root for an ending where two lonely hearts find what they were looking for right next to them.
No chandeliers – just a sweet story, light as a feather, charmingly acted and sung, a holiday respite worth your while.
The Greater Boston Stage Company production of “She Loves Me.” Book by Joe Masteroff. Music by Jerry Bock, lyrics by Sheldon Harnick. Directed and choreographed by Ilyse Robbins. Scenic design by Brynna Bloomfield. Costume design by Gail Astrid Buckley. Lighting design by Jeff Adelberg, Sound design by John Stone. Music direction by Matthew Stern. At the Greater Boston Stage Company through Dec. 23. greaterbostonstage.org.