Sometimes all you have to do is walk into a theatre to know that the show you are going to see will be just right and I definitely had that feeling going into the Landor Theatre to see “She Loves Me”.
Its 1930s Budapest and Maraczek’s Parfumerie is about to open for the day. It’s a beautiful morning and the staff are stood outside the shop waiting to enter. Young Delivery Boy Arpad Laszlo (Joshua LeClair) and Clerk Ladisov Sipos (David Herzog) enjoy the early morning sun and are soon joined by other staff, shy Manager Georg Nowack (John Sandberg), suave ladies’ man Steven Kodaly (Matthew Wellman) and pretty but gullible Ilona Ritter (Emily Lynne). Unfortunately they can’t all pop off to the park for a picnic or stay outside sunbathing, so into the shop they go to be joined by owner Mr Maraczek (Ian Dring) who is having the shelves stocked with musical cigarette boxes which, despite Georg’s doubts, he believes will be a big seller. As the trading day commences shy but determined would-be sales-person Amalia Balash (Charlotte Jaconelli) arrives and despite being rebuffed by Georg, manages to charm Mr Maraczek by selling one of the cigarette boxes within five minutes of arriving and being hired on the spot, earning her Georg’s instant disapproval.
Now as is often the truth, Maraczek’s Parfumerie is not just a shop for Budapest’s discerning and well-heeled purchasers of perfumes and such-like for beneath the calm professional exterior, there are all sorts of rumblings and undercurrents of discontent in play. Thanks to an anonymous note, Mr Maraczek believes his wife is having an affair with a member of his staff – and he thinks he has a pretty good idea who.
Steven and Ilona are secretly seeing each other outside of work – well not so secretly as everyone else knows but never mentions it – and Ilona isn’t 100% happy with the way things are going with that liaison. Bachelor Georg is having a letter based relationship with a lady known only as ‘Dear Friend’. Someone he has never met but through their correspondence he feels he knows well enough to fall in love with. On the work front however, Georg’s year is going from pretty good to bad to worse as the seasons move on. Mr Maraczek’s attitude to him seems to be changing from an almost paternal-like affection to active dislike and no matter how he tries, Georg keeps on getting into spats with Miss Balash. According to Ladisov it is because they like each other but that can’t really be the reason can it? For herself, Miss Balash also has a secret. She too is in a secret relationship and she is going to the Café Imperiale, the most romantic spot in old Budapest, on a date with him. So, all in all, given the clandestine activities, suspicions and romantic secrets, Maraczek’s Parfumerie really is the place to be in the run up to Christmas, a time of piece, goodwill and happiness to all – yeah right!
Any show that was first performed in 1963 (the year of my birth) is a winner with me and with lyrics by Sheldon Harnick, and music by Jerry Bock “She Loves Me” is an absolute classic of the musical theatre genre. This production is simply stunning from the outset. Director Robert McWhir has assembled a first rate cast and used them extremely well to tell the story. Charlotte Jaconelli has a fantastic musical range and delivers songs such as ‘Dear Friend’ beautifully, filling the space with her wonderful voice. Charlotte’s pairing with John Sandberg as Georg works well and I loved his “She Loves Me” which he imbued with such enthusiasm, as he literally shared his happiness with the audience that you couldn’t help but celebrate along with him. As a master of comedy, Ian Dring needs a mention playing not only the loveable old curmudgeon Mr Maraczek, but also the marvellously over the top, camp and bitchy Maitre D’ of the Café Imperiale doing everything and anything he can to maintain the air of clandestine romance. There was so much in this show to enjoy. I especially loved little touches to the direction such as the wonderfully comic transition – assisted by Arpad – from summer to autumn to winter and the facial expressions of David Herzog as Ladisov sings ‘Perspective’ to explain to Georg how his character survives in the modern world. And finally, I have to compliment the set. Sometimes the smaller off west-end/fringe theatres don’t have the space for lavish sets, but Designer David Shields has created an ornate opulent and wonderfully versatile performance space that sets the mood perfectly.
To sum up this review, my feeling at the start was entirely correct, and if you are a fan of musical theatre, you too will love “She Loves Me”. This show is everything that a musical should be – fun, entertaining, distracting and just a marvellous way to spend a couple of hours on a cold dark night. I wouldn’t be surprised if it gets a well-deserved transfer to the West End when it finishes its run at the Landor and if it does, I will be sitting in the stalls singing along and loving this tale of innocent romance and love amongst the perfume.
Review by Terry Eastham
She Loves Me
Wednesday 4th February – Saturday 7th March 2015, 7.30pm
Saturday and Sunday matinees, 3pm
Running time 2 hour 30 minutes with interval
Landor Theatre, 70 Landor Road, London SW9 9PH
Box Office Tickets are available from www.landortheatre.co.uk or 020 7737 7276
Cast: Charlotte Jaconelli, John Sandberg, Emily Lynne, Matthew Wellman, Joshua LeClair, David Herzog, Ian Dring, George Mulryan, Rosie Ladkin, Tom Whalley, Olivia Holland-Rose, Luke Kelly, Annie Horn and Susie Chaytow.
Creative: Director: Robert McWhir, Musical Director: Iain Vince-Gatt, Choreographer: Robbie O’Reilly, Lighting Designer: Richard Lambert, Designer: David Shields, Associate Costumer Designer: Nina Morley
Tuesday 10th February 2015