Nora Dominick ‘17/ Emertainment Monthly Co-Executive Stage Editor
Vanilla ice cream might be the sweetest treat for Amalia Balash, but the recent revival of She Loves Me might be the sweetest revival musical this season. As part of Roundabout Theatre Company’s 50th anniversary season, She Loves Me has been effortlessly revived for a whole new generation of classic musical fans. The revival hits all the right notes and is one of the brightest revivals this season.
She Loves Me follows Amalia and Georg, two parfumerie clerks who don’t seem to get along. Constantly bumping heads while on the job, Amalia and Georg can’t seem to find common ground. But little do they know the anonymous pen pals they have both been falling head over heels for happen to be each other! She Loves Me returns to Broadway for the first time since it triumphantly launched Roundabout’s musical theatre initiative over 20 years ago. With a book by Tony Award winner Joe Masteroff (Cabaret) music by Tony winner Jerry Bock (Fiddler on the Roof) and lyrics by Pulitzer Prize and Tony winner Sheldon Harnick (Fiddler on the Roof), She Loves Me is a story with just the right balance of love and humor.
There are several strong factors that make this revival of She Loves Me so brilliant. One of the biggest is the star-studded cast that brings these characters to life. Leading off the cast is the incomparable, Tony Award winner Laura Benanti. She makes her triumphant return to Broadway as Amalia Balash, a role that seems to have been tailor made for the actress. Known for her work on Broadway in Gypsy and Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, Benanti’s soprano voice is one of a generation. Her voice soars in numbers such as “Will He Like Me?” And “Dear Friend” remind the audience just how talented she really is.
Although these two numbers show off her vocal range, it’s the Act two number “Vanilla Ice Cream” that seals the deal. In this number, Georg shows up to Amalia’s apartment with vanilla ice cream, Amalia’s favorite, what ensues is a rousing number equal parts physical comedy and angelic high notes. Anyone that is accustomed to Benanti’s work, whether it’s on Broadway, on TV in Supergirl or through her witty Twitter account, gets a kick out of this number. She jumps up and down on a bed, runs around and hits every note with striking precision. Benanti is the comedy and heart in this brilliant revival of She Loves Me.
Also leading the cast is Chuck and Tangled star Zachary Levi. He recently made his Broadway debut in the adorable musical First Date opposite Krysta Rodriguez. Now, Levi is back and better than ever. From the moment he steps onto the Studio 54 stage, he commands it. Mostly known for his work on TV, Levi reminds audience members just how much he loves Broadway. He struts his stuff in the opening number “Good Morning, Good Day” alongside the rest of the talented ensemble. His real shining moment comes in the Act two number “She Loves Me.” Levi is alone on stage and owns it! He runs, flips and sings his heart out in the titular number and further showcases how much he’s improved since his Broadway debut. Levi and Benanti also create a wonderful relationship on stage. In their number “Where’s My Shoe?” Levi and Benanti showcase their comedic chops as they bounce hilarious physical and witty comedy off of each other. Levi’s work as Georg is something theater fans all around will not want to miss.
Rounding out the extremely talented cast is Tony winner and Emmy nominee Jane Krakowski (Nine, 30 Rock) as Ilona and Tony nominee Gavin Creel (Hair). Krakowski soars as Ilona, the lovestruck perfume clerk. Krakowski shows off her incredible vocal range in the number “I Resolve,” however her most memorable moments come alongside Creel. Creel takes on the role of Kodaly, a sleazy perfume salesman at Maraczek’s. Ilona and Kodaly have been having an on/off relationship and in the number “Ilona” the duo shine. Creel belts out the words while Krakowsky follows him around and shows off her impeccable dance moves including a full split that earns her a huge applause. The duo work perfectly together and add some of the more comedic moments to She Loves Me.
The music and lyrics in She Loves Me may define this classic Broadway musical, however they also set She Loves Me apart from other musicals from its time. Unlike other musicals that premiered at this time like Funny Girl and Hello, Dolly!, She Loves Me thrives in its subtle musical moments. The musical rarely features a big, show stopping musical number. The only time the entire cast really partakes in a number is the opening and even then Benanti is absent. She Loves Me thrives in the songs between numbers like the clerks singing “Thank you, madam, please call again. Do call again, madam.” These little moments are what make She Loves Me stand out whether it be the original 1963 production or the 2016 revival.
Set designer David Rockwell brings the world of She Loves Me to life with the gorgeous moving set pieces. The main set of Maraczek’s Parfumerie constantly changes to reveal the outside, inside and backroom of the establishment. The musical direction by Paul Gemignani also elevates She Loves Me to new and incredible heights. The orchestra is seated in the boxes in the mezzanine as opposed to in an orchestra pit.
The revival of She Loves Me brings humor and heart back to Broadway. Benanti, Levi, Krakowski, Creel and the rest of the knockout cast bring their A-game in every scene. She Loves Me will take audiences away from the business of their everyday lives and remind them of a time where life moved slower and love was found just around the corner.