Produced by: Foothill Music Theatre
Directed by: Milissa Carey
Choreographed by: Tango choreography by Nicole Helfer, café choreography by Morgan Dayley
Music direction by: Dolores Duran-Cefalu
Featuring: John Rinaldi, Anthony Stephens, Morgan Dayley, Nick Rodrigues, Michael Doppe, George Mauro, Hayley Lovgren, Kimberly Cohan, Mrigendra Steiner, Kimberly Kay, Lydia Cuffman, Jessica Whittemore, Samuel Nachison, Nick Mandracchia, Peter Mandel, Heather Mitchell, Jery Rosas; ensemble includes Rex Bressler, Kimberly Cohan, Lydia Cuffman, Kimberly Kay, Hayley Lovgren, Peter Mandel, Nick Mandracchia, Samuel Nachison, Nima Rakhshanifar, Peter Spoelstra, and Mrigendra Steiner
Running time: 150 minutes, one intermission
When: February 18 through March 6, 2016
Where: Lohman Theatre, Foothill College, 12345 El Monte Road, Los Altos Hills, California
Tickets: $12-$24. Visit www.foothillmusicals.com or call 1-650-949-7360.
of a mediocre musical
can't make 'She Loves Me' into a good show
Certainly, go see "She Loves Me" at Foothill Music Theatre.
There is a beautiful leading lady — Jessica Whittemore — who sings impressively in a powerful soprano. Also, she has dimples.
There is a handsome leading man —Michael Doppe — who is also a very good singer. And may have dimples.
The two leads are both very good actors.
The supporting cast is good, and the ensemble is packed with powerful, excellent singers.
And the production values may be the best I have ever seen at Foothill. A delightful, versatile set on a turntable by the great Kuo-Hao Lo, fitted with excellent props by Ruth E. Stein; fabulous costumes by the great B. Modern; flawless lighting by Keenan Molner; the best sound mix I've ever experienced at Foothill, by Andrew Heller; and an excellent little orchestra directed by Dolores Duran-Cefalu. Production manager was Bruce McLeod, one of the Bay Area's top pros.
But it's still, for the most part, a clunky, poorly written musical that doesn't work well as a romance and doesn't send us out the door humming any memorable tunes.
Some of the songs are at least interesting. With music by Jerry Bock and lyrics by Sheldon Harnick, the show plays two or three times with call-and-response musical dialogue, and overlapping-conversation tunes. "Sounds While Selling," for instance, has sales clerks and upper-class customers bouncing lyrics all over the Lohman Theatre, and that's kind of fun. Also, kind of annoying, because it's so hard to make narrative sense of it all.
Several of the tunes have a definite flamenco feel, there is a tango or two, and a tune that owes a lot to Maurice Ravel's "Bolero."
Maybe the best tune of the musical is the penultimate number, "Twelve Days to Christmas," with the entire cast rushing and dancing and doing stunts all over the stage in a hilarious parody of panicked holiday shoppers. One fellow — Peter Spoelstra — did a great bit, chasing a wrapped package around the entire riotous scene, always "accidentally" kicking it further on as he tries to grab it. Shades of Bill Irwin!
The story is familiar, based on "Parfumerie" by Miklos Laszlo, and remade a couple of other times, including as the movie "You've Got Mail," starring Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks.
A beautiful young woman comes to work as a clerk at a perfume store, and immediately gets off to a bad start with a handsome clerk. They are constantly sniping at each other, not knowing that they are each other's "Dear Friend," and have been carrying on a deep friendship with shades of love by pen-pal letters.
This goes on for months, although, if logic were applied, how could it not have been discovered in the first week? "Dear Friend: Today I started a new job, and one of my co-workers was very rude about a musical cigarette case that I managed to sell as a candy box."
But that doesn't happen.
In the meantime, not much chemistry happens between the two, either, even as their pen-pal selves continue to write to each other. This is a key weakness of the story.
A subplot gets the handsome man, Georg, wrongly fired, just as he is expecting to meet his pen-pal at a romantic restaurant. He loses his nerve and stands her up, which lets us, the audience, know that he is a coward and doesn't deserve her. For her, it's just heartbreaking.
The next day, still without admitting he knows she is his pen-pal, he brings her some ice cream, and suddenly a possible romance semi-blooms.
Some other subplots happen, and then in the last minutes of the show, she finally discovers who he is, and instead of dumping him for the wimp he's proven himself to be, she gives him a big kiss, hearts shower on them from the ceiling, and the show is — quite abruptly — over.
Director Milissa Carey is a solid professional and I think she probably did the best she could with this poorly written play. Certainly the cast and production values are good, and the show zips along, developing as much interest and humor as Joe Masteroff's 1963 book allows. I like how well she has the ensemble performing. Everybody has a role and does something with it.
There are several fun performances and cute bits. Morgan Dayley, a tall, pretty blonde with expressive eyes who was probably born to be in musical comedies, is a lot of fun as Ilona Ritter the cashier, who has a bad romance going with a clerk named Kodaly, played handsomely and with panache by Nick Rodrigues. Life gets better for Ilona in "A Trip to the Library."
John Rinaldi is very good as another clerk, Sipos. George Mauro gives a master class in acting as Mr. Maracek, who has the show's biggest dramatic curve. Anthony Stephens is enthusiastic as Arpad the delivery guy.
Nick Mandracchia as the headwaiter and Peter Mandel as the busboy have a hilarious bit with the song "A Romantic Atmosphere," which also features a ton of great stuff by the ensemble, and tango by Heather Mitchell and Jery Rosas.
Doppe, during the song "She Loves Me," does a lot of amusing tricks with a hat. Fun. Whittemore, tall and powerful, is pretty impressive stomping around on stage with one tall shoe on, for the song "Where's My Shoe?"
Email John Orr at email@example.com