A favourite soundtrack, I’ve never seen performed, the stakes were high for my trip to the Landor Theatre for Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harnick’s She Loves Me. The musical lovers’ musical, it’s a piece that shows how the often-maligned genre of romantic comedy can really work. The course of love, for a shy couple who write each other anonymous lonely heart letters yet work in the same shop, runs sweet and funny, if not smooth. And the songs are to die for – a brilliant collection of stirring and amusing numbers, each of them a treasure.
The setting is Maraczek’s perfumery and the staff all have love lives and ambitions worth a song. Emily Lynne makes an exciting London debut as Ilona, struggling with the caddish Kodlay, played super smoothly by Matthew Wellman. Ian Dring has a busy time as the store’s cuckolded owner, also stealing a scene where he doubles as a waiter. Meanwhile, Joshua LeClair’s Arpad only has eyes for the job, tackling the role with a level of perkiness that forces you to smile along.
Taking the lead role as Amalia is Charlotte Jaconelli who seems undaunted by the big shoes previous performers have left her to fill; her tremendously powerful voice is a thrill to hear. Possibly Jaconelli might have played the role with more humour – a tactic that works for Amalia’s love interest Georg, played by John Sandberg, whose affable presence is easy to warm to.
While I imagined Robert McWhir’s direction would have been speedier, the second act is faultless. Performed on piano with a couple of strings accompanying, I’d still like to hear a full orchestra perform the score but this production didn’t disappoint my high expectations. She Loves Me is quaint and comfortable, as it should be, but full of tenderness and brimming with gentle humour. As well-served customers at Maraczek’s have sung to them – thank you, thank you. And I would love to call again. Thank you.
Until 7 March 2015
Photos by Darren Bell