This past Friday, the Lyric Arts Main Street Stage officially transformed into a lovely perfume shop. This is all due to the opening of their Spring musical, She Loves Me. Whether you're new to this lovely suburban theatre, which was recently highlighted in the Star Tribune (link), or a devoted familiar fan, you will have an absolutely delightful night out when seeing this musical. It's charming, warmly romantic and just downright entertaining.
She Loves Me is a musical by Joe Masteroff with lyrics and music by Sheldon Harnick and Jerry Bock. It revolves around Georg Nowack and Amalia Balash who, despite being consistently at each other's throats at work, are completely unaware they have a lot more common than they think. They are secretly each other's pen pal's met through a lonely-hearts club. The musical originally opened in 1963 but more recently had a successful 2016 revival. The revival was nominated for 8 Tony awards and featured the talents of Zachary Levi, Laura Benanti, and Jane Krakowski, who if you haven't seen perform in the Tony awards medley, please do. Krakowski drops into the splits and gets dragged across the stage whilst still singing.
I was quite unfamiliar with this show until now. I roughly knew what it was about and knew the soundtrack featured a song called "Vanilla Ice Cream," but other than that I was pretty clueless. I was pleasantly surprised by how quickly I fell in love with it. Each and every song was engaging and not only fun for the actors but also for the audience. The plot is very simple but somehow so endearing that you can't help but fall in love with it. You know how much I love a show where sometimes I don't have to think about the complexities or themes but more so just sit back and enjoy.
Resident Director Scott Ford cast an absolutely brilliant cast for this musical. There are many familiar faces including James Ehlenz, Kayla Hambek, Brandon Osero, Armando Ronconi, Brendan Veerman and Maxwell Ward. Next to them are more familiar faces and even new ones, making their Lyric Arts debut including the two leads. Katherine Fried plays Amalia Balash and is wickedly talented. An important feature of this musical is the lead female role is a soprano. Many get lost in the flashy vocal styles of new age musicals with belts that last for measures upon measures. However, this one has a soprano and Fried hits it out of the park! Her voice is superb and effortlessly transports you back to perhaps when the musical was first on Broadway. Fried literally had my jaw drop when she hit the highest and purest note in the show, at the end of the song "Vanilla Ice Cream."
Next to Fried is her leading man, Joseph Hitchock who plays Georg Nowack. Hitchock's tone and portrayal of Nowack is so dreamy I melted in my seat....multiple times. His voice transcends the meaning of deep and rich. I am extremely excited to see what these two can do in the cities and surrounding suburbs. I will certainly be keeping my eyes on cast lists for their names. Karissa Lade plays fellow clerk, Ilona. Unfortunately, when I saw the show, she could not speak due to illness. However the show must go on and she took that to heart when she walked, danced and mouthed the lyrics and dialogue while Kate Beahen did all the vocals. The joys of live theatre! They both did very well and despite the short rehearsal time they may have had, were both very in sync with each other.
Another cast highlight for me was Maxwell Ward as the delivery boy, Arpad. I think he was easily a crowd favorite, and certainly was mine. I've had the pleasure of seeing Ward before in Lyric Art's previous holiday show Plaid Tidings and he did not disappoint this time around either. Ward not only delivers each line with humor and excitement but even when the scene does not feature him, he still manages to steal my attention without taking the full spotlight. With multiple comedic bits here and there, I almost want to see it again just to watch him the entire time.
Scott Ford also knows how to pace a show, which is one of the biggest compliments I can give. One of my biggest complaints with many directors is the pacing. At times I feel a show dragging on but Ford directing keeps it moving along. It also helps that I noticed later majority of the song is pretty short, averaging maybe less than 2.5 minutes. A 14-piece orchestra, directed by Louis Berg-Arnold, sounds beautiful despite a few technical sound issues.
She Loves Me is such a charming musical that it's the perfect show to start spring off. It's light-hearted, joyful and hilarious, the perfect musical rom-com. The cast clearly enjoys the production and performs it with such passion that I really do wish I could go back. Lyric Arts musicals tend to sell out quick so I'll save myself from purchasing one so that someone else can see it!
She Loves Me plays at Lyric Arts through April 15. Tickets can be found at Lyricarts.org.