She Loves Me is based on Hungarian playwright, Miklos Laszlo's Parfumerie which had its premiere in 1937 and subsequently inspired not only this musical but at least two movies, 1940's The Shop Around the Corner starring Jimmy Stewart and 1998's You've Got Mail starring Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks.
The musical is set in Maraczek's Parfumerie in Budapest - the time is 1934. She Loves Me has intriguing sub-plots that include a love affair between an employee and the boss's wife and an attempted suicide. The central plot involves two co-workers who despise one-another at work but are actually falling in love with each other as members of a Lonely Hearts Club.
Joe Masteroff's book is clever and pithy. The score by Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harnick (also represented on Broadway this season by Fiddler on the Roof) doesn't have any big, splashy musical numbers that one readily associates with the show. What it has are musical numbers that are melodic ("Ilona"), move the musical forward ("I Don't Know His Name" and "Try Me"), and bring out the humor ("A Romantic Atmosphere").
Laura Benanti is delightfully petulant as recent hire, Amaliah Balash who secretly falls in love with Georg. As Georg, Zachary Levi (last seen on Broadway in First Date) exudes such cocky charm it's hard not to fall in love with him. Together they have splendid chemistry.
Jane Krakowski , the hardest working actor in New York, doing double duty on television and on stage, delights as co-worker Ilona Ritter. She gives a bravura performance of "I Resolve," sung with unbridled enthusiasm after falling victim to the two-timing lady's man, Kodaly, played by Broadway's own Gavin Creel. For his part, Creel's performance of "Ilona" is magical. Both he and Krakowski elegantly glide across the stage as they execute Warren Carlyle's smart choreography. At one point, Creel drags Krakowski across the floor with her legs in a split.
Tony Award winner Michael McGrath knows exactly how to deliver the laughs as parfumerie salesman Ladislav Sipos. Sipos always seems to wind up in the middle of every situation. Nicholas Barasch is the still-wet-behind-the-ears Arpad, the parfumerie's delivery boy intent on rising to the top. His performance is exuberant and despite his youth (a senior at the Professional Children's School), Barasch's performance is equal to that of his more senior cast mates.
Peter Bartlett gives a scene-chewing performance as the headwaiter of the Café Imperiale, where our mystery lovers arrange to meet. Broadway veteran Byron Jennings commands respect as Mr. Maraczek, the owner of the parfumerie.
Larry Hochman's fresh and vibrant new orchestrations, and an orchestra under the musical direction of Paul Gemignani, give the music wings and help it soar.
The gorgeous scenic design by David Rockwell unfolds like a child's-popup book, brought to life with Donald Holder's candy-colored lighting gleaming off the bottles of colorful perfume. Jeff Mahshie's costume design adds glamour and panache, putting the icing on the cake that is this top-notch cast.
She Loves Me was the first musical that Roundabout presented on Broadway in 1993. As they celebrate their 50th year, Roundabout and director Scott Ellis continue to prove that they know how to breathe life into classics like this lovely little gem.