Categories: Arts Theater

SF Playhouse’s ‘She Loves Me’ a sweet holiday treat

Look out, Ebenezer Scrooge, and move over, Nutcracker. “She Loves Me,” which opened Wednesday in a new San Francisco Playhouse production, is making a strong bid to be this year’s holiday hit.

Based on the Hungarian play “The Parfumerie,” the 1963 musical by Joe Masteroff (book), Jerry Bock (music) and Sheldon Harnick (lyrics) is a charmer. Featuring delectable songs and dance numbers, and a love story set during the days before Christmas, it’s as sweet and seasonal as a bowl of eggnog.

The story opens in the Budapest perfume shop of Mr. Maraczek, where head clerk Georg Nowack meets new hire Amalia Balash. In their initial encounter, they pretty much hate each other on sight.

What they don’t realize — and we quickly come to understand — is that they’ve already established an epistolary relationship. Responding to a “lonely hearts” ad, they write to each other anonymously, pouring out the secrets of their souls in letters addressed to “Dear Friend.” (The original play also inspired films such as “The Shop Around the Corner” and “You’ve Got Mail.”)

The action’s set in 1937, but director Susi Damilano gives her production a few contemporary tweaks, including a same-sex couple in the pivotal Act 1 café scene. But this is essentially a nostalgic vision, and the designs — costumes by Abra Berman, lighting by Thomas J. Munn and a revolving set by Bill English and Jacquelyn Scott — keep it anchored in the era.

The performances vary. Jeffrey Brian Adams is a rather generic Georg, but his singing, particularly in the title song, is lovely. As Amalia, Monique Hafen is an appealing comic presence, but her reedy soprano acquires a harsh edge.

In the supporting cast, Michael Gene Sullivan is a sympathetic Maraczek. Nanci Zoppi’s is ideal as the bad-girl-gone-good Ilona, and Rodney Earl Jackson Jr. is smooth as her sometime boyfriend, Kodaly.

Joe Estlack earns laughs as the affable Ladislav, Nicholas J. Garland is an energetic Arpad, and Brian Herndon is irresistible as the world-weary Waiter.

Music director David Aaron Brown does a fine job of leading the band, stationed on upper tiers, through the score’s woozy waltzes, peppy tunes and wondrous love songs, and Kimberly Richards choreography dazzles.

As Georg and Amalia inch toward love, the show becomes warmer, brighter; the final rush, with carols and customers filling the shop on Christmas Eve, brings it all to an effervescent climax. In those moments, “She Loves Me” is a pretty sweet treat.

REVIEW
She Loves Me
Presented by San Francisco Playhouse
Where: 450 Post St., S.F.
When: 7 p.m. Tuesdays-Thursdays, 8 p.m. Fridays, 3 and 8 p.m. Saturdays, 2 p.m. select Sundays; closes Jan. 14
Tickets: $30 to $125
Contact: (415) 677-9596, www.sfplayhouse.org

Georgia Rowe

Recent Posts

PETA demonstrates against leather outside Levi’s headquarters

Campaigners with People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals demonstrated outside Levi's corporate headquarters near the Embarcadero to protest the…

4 hours ago

Mystery backers of Trauss, Johnson drop $100k into D6 race

A cool $100,000 just dropped like a thud into the hotly contested District 6 supervisors race, aimed squarely at taking…

5 hours ago

Athletics demolish Angels in record-setting 21-3 rout

By Alex Hall Special to S.F. Examiner OAKLAND -- The Oakland Athletics have one of the five best offenses in…

7 hours ago

Elderly woman struck by flatbed truck dies in second SF traffic death this week

A 75-year-old woman struck by a flatbed truck in Bernal Heights has died, according to the Medical Examiner’s Office. Marlene…

7 hours ago

Richard Sherman kept out of practice with heel injury

SANTA CLARA -- At first, it looked as though Richard Sherman was just taking a veteran's day off, walking around…

7 hours ago

St. Ignatius hires new head varsity baseball coach Brian Pollzzie

The St. Ignatius athletic department announced on Thursday that they have hired the new head coach for its varsity baseball…

8 hours ago