REVIEW: "She Loves Me" – South Coast Repertory, Costa Mesa

Updated: Jun 20, 2020

Sometimes a Little Vanilla Ice Cream is Sweet Deliverance.

Such is the discovery of Amalia and Georg, who work as sales clerks in a luxury retail perfume shop, and unfortunately, aren’t exactly the best of friends. They do have something in common, however. They are, unbeknownst to them, both secret pen pals in a lonely hearts club.

Sound familiar? It should.

That youthful, infatuating theme has been the crux of many Hollywood and Broadway productions, culminating in one of the most endearing musicals of all time – "She Loves Me." The proof is at South Coast Repertory in Costa Mesa, where this musical, playing now in full confectionery charm through February 22nd to teeming houses, has finally received the rapturous revival of its fans' dreams, and where surely new fans will be made by the legion.

An intimate work with nothing on its sophisticated mind other than romance, "She Loves Me" is no less an anomaly today than it was 57 years ago. Given how the world has changed since then, audiences may be hungrier than ever for a show such as this, dedicated solely to a melodic evening of sheer enchantment and escape.

That escape, however, is to a civilization that really doesn't exist anymore – the Mitteleuropa of the mid-1930's. Based on the same Hungarian play that inspired Ernst Lubitsch's Hollywood comedy, "The Shop Around the Corner," the musical is about two lovelorn clerks in a Budapest parfumerie...Georg Nowack (Brian Vaughn) and Amalia Balash (Erin Mackey), perpetually bickering colleagues by day, unwitting, passionate pen pals by night, brought together pseudonymously by a lonely hearts' classified. Inevitably, Georg and Amalia must realize the truth about each other and their own feelings, but not before there are a few farcical mix-ups, sad misunderstandings and hard-won journeys to self-knowledge.

And in the process of that revealing truth, the disarming music within them is the manifestation of irrepressible emotions that we all experience. At their most ecstatic, they take the form of bravura solos: Amalia’s exemplary “No More Candy,” “Will He Like Me?” and “Vanilla Ice Cream,” where she literally owns the stage as her stream of consciousness carries her out of one love affair and into another, all the while spanning at least that many vocal registers and moods.