Category Archive for: ‘Woody Weingarten’

Musical comedy ‘She Loves Me’ is frothy and fun

[Woody’s Rating: ★★★★☆

I’ve long been aware there’s no “I” in teamwork, but I never knew until the other night the word could be spelled with three f’s.

The San Francisco Playhouse troupe proved it could.

thumbs-up3I found “She Loves Me,” its latest production, to be unconditionally frothy, frolicsome and fun.

Bringing me ripples of amusement for two hours and 20 minutes via superior comic acting, comic choreography and comic singing.

The musical romcom romp, in fact, became my ideal escape from the tension of 2016 and anxieties about next year.

Leading the team of 12 first-rate onstage actors, a quintet of musicians and a host of backstage creative folks is director Susi Damilano, who ensured that the entire show moved swiftly.

And kept me smiling from one end to the other.

Depressed Amalia Balash (Monique Hafen) laps up vanilla ice cream while Georg Nowack (Jeffrey Brian Adams) consoles her in “She Loves Me.” Photo by Jessica Palopoli.

Depressed Amalia Balash (Monique Hafen) laps up vanilla ice cream while Georg Nowack (Jeffrey Brian Adams) consoles her in “She Loves Me.” Photo by Jessica Palopoli.

Amalia Balash, played with comic genius by Monique Hafen, and Georg Nowack, who Jeffrey Brian Adams turned into a near-perfect guileless foil, are clerks in Maraczek’s, a snooty perfume shop at Christmastime in 1937 Budapest, the pre-World War II year I was born.

They bicker over everything more or less.

And don’t realize that each one’s adored but anonymous pen-pal friend — the result of her answering a newspaper lonely-hearts antecedent of Match.com — is the other.

Sure it’s hokey. And sentimental. And contrived.

But so cheery I let my qualms vanish.

“She Loves Me” contains no brilliant plot points, no unpredictable events, no mega-familiar songs except the title tune.

But the show’s so enjoyable I let those misgivings dissipate, too.

The musical comedy, which debuted on Broadway in 1963, is based on a Hungarian play that was based on the same story the Tom Hanks-Meg Ryan hit film, “You’ve Got Mail,” was based on — as were earlier Jimmy Stewart and Judy Garland flicks.

Music and lyrics are by, respectively, the late Jerry Bock and 92-year-old Sheldon Harnick, who won Tonys for “Fiddler on the Roof” and “Fiorello.”

Musical direction is by David Aaron Brown, who physically rocks nonstop at his perky synthesizer at his perch on the second level of the stage. He’s backed, high up on the opposite side of the stage, by four other top-notch but inconspicuous musicians (except when they don festive holiday hats): violinist Lucas Gayda, reed player Audrey Jackson, trumpeter-flugelhornist Justin Smith and drummer Chris Maneri.

Roué Steven Kodaly (Rodney Earl Jackson Jr.) seduces Ilona Ritter (played with comic virtuosity by Nanci Zoppi) in “She Loves Me.” Photo by Jessica Palopoli.

Roué Steven Kodaly (Rodney Earl Jackson Jr.) seduces Ilona Ritter (played with comic virtuosity by Nanci Zoppi) in “She Loves Me.” Photo by Jessica Palopoli.

My favorite moments in “She Loves Me” included sidesplitting choreography by Kimberly Richards (especially on exaggerated Latin interludes, a klutzy waiter’s missteps with a tray, and the frenetic “12 Days to Christmas”), depressed Amalia lapping up vanilla ice cream in bed, the love-starved Ilona Ritter (Nanci Zoppi, whose rubbery facial expressions brought me frequent exultation) recounting “A Trip to the Library,” Mr. Maraczek (Michael Gene Sullivan) being wistful on “Days Gone By,” confetti being strewn on the stage to create a mock flurry of snowflakes, and a lesbian couple display-casing their lust in a café.

But, my truth is, there were actually too many highlights to list.

If you’re looking for serious commentaries on the rise of Naziism and racial hatred, or an aside about Donald Trump, you won’t find them.

In the play. Or in this review.

“She Loves Me” may be sweet enough to put diabetics like me at risk.

But so delightful I’ll let that wisecrack vaporize, too.

“She Loves Me” runs at San Francisco Playhouse, 450 Post St. (between Powell and Mason), through Jan. 14. Night performances, 7 p.m. Tuesdays through Thursdays, 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays; matinees, 2 p.m. Fridays and Sundays, 3 p.m. Saturdays; special show, 2 p.m. Christmas Eve and 7 p.m. Monday, Dec. 26. Tickets: $20 to $125. Information: http://sfplayhouse.org or 415-677-9596.

 Contact Woody Weingarten at voodee@sbcglobal.net or www.vitalitypress.com.

Page 5 of 97« First...«34567»102030...Last »