She Loves Me, now being performed by the PlayMakers Repertory Company in UNC-Chapel Hill’s Paul Green Theatre, under the direction of Kirsten Sanderson, may be the perfect example of musical theater. It begins with a classic story of romance … actually, non-romance. In Shakespearean terms, it’s much more Much Ado About Nothing than Romeo and Juliet.
This romantic comedy is a musical version of the 1940 film, The Shop Around the Corner, starring James Stewart and Margaret Sullavan. The film has been remade and updated over the years in many forms, including this musical as well as the films In the Good Old Summertime (1949) and You’ve Got Mail (1998).
If there is anything to criticize about this show, it would be the lack of a memorable score. It is not West Side Story or My Fair Lady. Jerry Bock’s music does, however, further the story with delightfully clever lyrics by Sheldon Harnick. The songs are both humorous and poignant.
Everything else about this performance was outstanding. As is typical for a musical-theater performance in the Triangle, the median age at this venue appeared to be about 65, with at least two-thirds of the audience qualifying for an AARP discount. This is on a college campus, no less. As such, I’d like to describe the positives in such a way as to appeal to the younger set.
I will start with the venue. This theater is absolutely perfect. The Paul Green Theatre has 500 extremely unobstructed and comfortable seats. It is three-fourths in-the-round, and no seat is too far from the action. It is an absolutely beautifully designed, technological marvel, and the perfect venue to introduce young people to live theater. This includes the sound and lighting.
Music director Mark Hartman and his orchestra were actually above the performers, rather than hidden in a pit below. Scenic designer Daniel Zimmerman’s set design was simple, but beautifully done. The ensemble cast seamlessly moved the pieces so smoothly that it seemed to be part of Tracey Bersley’s choreography.
Under Kirsten Sanderson guidance the ensemble players were equally adept at singing, dancing, or advancing the story. Of special note was the clever movement and singing of the ensemble during the number, “A Romantic Atmosphere.” Again, here is an opportunity to introduce your kids to serious professional theater at local theater prices.
As for the featured actors, you cannot ask for better. The singing was impeccable as was the acting. Even the facial expressions were spot-on. Janet Krupin and Adam Poole were perfection as the supporting characters. The song “Ilona,” featuring the pair was a hilarious demonstration of humor, emoting, and choreography.
Jenny Latimer, as the female lead, Amalia, was equally brilliant. Her duet with Ilona, “I Don’t Know His Name,” was incredible. Again, this is the best example of taking a classic screen story, and enhancing it with musical performance. A solo is nice, but can basically be done as dialog. When done correctly, the duets and medleys in a musical can be truly transformative. Your kids will learn to love this form of art.
Michael Maliakel, as Georg, the male lead, was strong and solid. His role was more of a straight man for the rest of the cast, so opportunities to stand out were fewer. Nevertheless, Maliakel never shrank into the background.
If you haven’t figured it out by now, I feel this is the perfect entry into musical theater for young people. Do you hear that, UNC students? I would have loved to discuss this production afterwards with my own kids. Classic romantic story, pleasant music, incredible venue, amazing technical presentation, clever lyrics, first-rate acting, and choreography are all included. Take your kids!!! It will be a gift that they can enjoy forever. More importantly, it is a gift they can share with their kids.
SECOND OPINION: Nov. 21st Raleigh, NC News & Observer preview by Glenn McDonald: https://www.newsobserver.com/entertainment/article221908835.html; Nov. 20th Raleigh, NC Chatham Life & Style review by Dustin K. Britt (who awarded the show 3 of 5 stars): https://chathamlifeandstyle.com/reviews-%26-features; Nov. 20th Durham, NC Indy Week review by Byron Woods (who awarded the show 2 of 5 stars): https://indyweek.com/culture/stage/a-touch-of-old-world-charm-and-pounds-of-patriarchy-in-creak/ and Nov. 14th mini-preview by Byron Woods: https://indyweek.com/events/she-loves-me/; Nov. 19th Raleigh, NC CVNC review by Roy C. Dicks: https://cvnc.org/article.cfm?articleId=9172; and Oct. 29th Chapel Hill, NC Daily Tar Heel (student newspaper) preview by A.J. O’Leary: https://www.dailytarheel.com/article/2018/10/she-loves-me-10-30.
PlayMakers Repertory Company presents SHE LOVES ME at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 21 and 23, 2 and 7:30 p.m. Nov. 24, 7:30 p.m. Nov. 27-30, 2 and 7:30 p.m. Dec. 1, 2 p.m. Dec. 2, 7:30 p.m. Dec. 4-8, and 2 p.m. Dec. 9 in the Paul Green Theatre in the Joan H. Gillings Center for Dramatic Art, 150 Country Club Rd., Chapel Hill, NC 27514, on the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill campus.
TICKETS: $15-$48 ($10 UNC students and $12 other college students), with discounts for UNC faculty and staff and U.S. military personnel, except $15 general admission ($10 for UNC students with ID) on Community Night (Tuesday, Dec. 4th).
BOX OFFICE: 919-962-PLAY, firstname.lastname@example.org, or https://tickets.playmakersrep.org/.
GROUP RATES (15+ tickets): 919-962-PLAY (7529), email@example.com, or http://www.playmakersrep.org/box-office/groups-and-special-events/.
SHOW: http://playmakersrep.org/show/she-loves-me/ and https://www.facebook.com/events/337264540355698/.
VIDEO PREVIEW: https://youtu.be/Qye5_Ta0syg.
PRC NEWS RELEASE: http://playmakersrep.org/press/tony-award-winning-musical-loves-takes-holiday-stage-playmakers-repertory-company/.
2018-19 SEASON (Shifting Ground: Theatre That Moves): http://playmakersrep.org/season/2018-2019/
PRESENTER: http://www.playmakersrep.org/, https://www.facebook.com/playmakersrep, https://twitter.com/playmakersrep, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/PlayMakers_Repertory_Company, and http://www.youtube.com/user/PlayMakersRep.
PRC BLOG (Page to Stage): http://playmakersrep.blogspot.com/.
VENUE: http://playmakersrep.org/aboutus/paulgreen and http://unchistory.web.unc.edu/building-narratives/paul-green-theatre/.
NOTE 1: All shows are wheelchair accessible, and assistive-listening devices will be available at all performances.
NOTE 2: There will be FREE post-show discussions, with members of the cast and creative team, following the show’s 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 21st, and 2 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 25th, performances.
NOTE 3: There will be an Open Captioning Performance at 2 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 1st (for more information, click here).
NOTE 4: The Psychoanalytic Center of the Carolinas will sponsor a FREE post-show Mindplay psychoanalytic discussion after the show’s 2 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 2nd, performance.
She Loves Me (1963 Broadway, 1964 West End, and 1965 Off-Broadway musical): https://www.mtishows.com/she-loves-me (Music Theatre International), https://www.ibdb.com/broadway-show/she-loves-me-7927 (Internet Broadway Database), http://www.lortel.org/Archives/Production/6078 (Internet Off-Broadway Database), and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/She_Loves_Me (Wikipedia).
Study Guide: https://www.roundabouttheatre.org/Roundabout/media/Roundabout/PDF/UPSTAGE/2015-2016/SheLovesMe_UpstageGuide_Web.pdf (Roundabout Theatre Company of New York, NY).
Jerry Bock (music, 1928-2010): https://masterworksbroadway.com/artist/jerry-bock/ (The Official Masterworks Broadway Site), http://www.lortel.org/Archives/CreditableEntity/11434 (Internet Off-Broadway Database), https://www.ibdb.com/broadway-cast-staff/jerry-bock-11403 (Internet Broadway Database), https://www.imdb.com/name/nm0090656/ (Internet Movie Database), and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jerry_Bock (Wikipedia).
Sheldon Harnick (lyrics): https://masterworksbroadway.com/artist/sheldon-harnick/ (The Official Masterworks Broadway Site), http://www.lortel.org/Archives/CreditableEntity/11436 (Internet Off-Broadway Database), https://www.ibdb.com/broadway-cast-staff/sheldon-harnick-8645 (Internet Broadway Database), https://www.imdb.com/name/nm0363676/ (Internet Movie Database), and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sheldon_Harnick (Wikipedia).
Joe Masteroff (book, 1919-2018): http://www.lortel.org/Archives/CreditableEntity/2153 (Internet Off-Broadway Database), https://www.ibdb.com/broadway-cast-staff/joe-masteroff-6762 (Internet Broadway Database), https://www.imdb.com/name/nm0557646/ (Internet Movie Database), and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joe_Masteroff (Wikipedia).
Kirsten Sanderson (director): https://www.kirstensanderson.com/ (official website), http://playmakersrep.org/artists/kirsten-sanderson/ (PlayMakers Rep bio), http://www.lortel.org/Archives/CreditableEntity/7284 (Internet Off-Broadway Database), https://www.ibdb.com/broadway-cast-staff/kirsten-sanderson-73791 (Internet Broadway Database), and https://www.imdb.com/name/nm8997960/ (Internet Movie Database).
Robert O’Connell is new to the Triangle, but not to the stage. As a playwright, he has had dozens of productions and awards throughout the world. He has an MS degree in Management Systems Analysis. A lifelong educator, O’Connell has also published three novels at http://www.flashmobthenovel.com/ and two humor anthologies from his blog, https://thesmartestguyiknow.wordpress.com/. He and his wife have settled in Cary, NC. Click here to read his reviews for Triangle Review and Triangle Arts and Entertainment.