Revival of musical romcom has lots of goodies, but…
The newest revival of the romantic comedy “She Loves Me” lacks whatever that special zing is that makes a show a must-see.
But the production at the Marin Art & Garden Center, a joint effort of the Mountain Play and the Ross Valley Players, includes enough goodies for me to rate it a maybe-see.
Go — if…
• You love your leads having first-rate voices and top-notch acting chops — as Max Kligman (an ever-so-earnest, ever-so put-upon and angry parfumerie manager Georg Nowack) and Marah Sotelo (desperate-for-love damsel Amalia Balash) do.
• You love over-the-top second- and third-bananas with jumbo talent (Chelsey Ristaino as a hysterically funny, horny Ilona Ritter and Alex Cook as bright-eyed, ambitious bike-riding messenger Arpad Laszlo).
• You love dance numbers ranging from graceful to funny (as skillfully crafted by director/choreographer Nicole Helfer).
• You love frequent costume changes with garb perfectly illustrating the times (in this case the 1930s, as created by Michael A. Berg) and simple but effective sets (by Tom O’Brien and Michael Walraven).
• You love flawless musical direction — even though it’s recorded material — by a gifted technician, vocal director Jake Gale, at the controls.
I’d seen “She Loves Me” before, in 2016 when the San Francisco Playhouse put it on. I wrote then that my favorite moments included “depressed Amalia lapping up vanilla ice cream” and a “frenetic ‘12 Days of Christmas.’”
But there are several others (that I’ll not mention because they’d probably trigger spoiler alerts).
My bigger problem is that, although I can’t quite put my critical finger on exactly why, this rendition of a show about two “Dear Friend” lonely hearts club pen-pals — you know, ancient forerunners of Match.com — simply doesn’t have the same pizzazz, the same panache.
Perhaps it’s Donald Trump’s fault (he’s undoubtedly the demon responsible for everything else I don’t like nowadays).
No, that’s not it. Maybe it’s just that…
• The romcom plot somehow feels even a couple of degrees more hackneyed today (Joe Masterson based it on a 1937 play by Miklós László whose storyline was previously used for the Tom Hanks-Meg Ryan film, “You’ve Got Mail,” as well as earlier Jimmy Stewart and Judy Garland movies), and too predictable.
• Or that I didn’t mind the first go-‘round that virtually all the characters are caricatures or stereotypes or that the entire happy-ending show and its setting are dated — inordinately quaint. Or that what goes down is, well, sometimes boring and excessively cute. But I mind now.
• Or that the songs composed by the late Jerry Bock of “Fiddler on the Roof” fame, despite clever lyrics by Sheldon Harnick (his now 95-year-old “Fiddler” collaborator), are still immediately forgettable (except for the hit title tune).
The truth is, despite my getting off on some of the comic dance numbers, I neither got really excited nor fell asleep during the performance — two extremes that I can attribute to other members of the opening night audience.
“She Loves Me” will run at The Barn, Marin Art & Garden Center, 30 Sir Francis Drake Blvd., Ross, through Dec. 22. Night performances, 7:30 p.m. Wednesdays and Thursdays, 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays; matinees, 2 p.m. Sundays. Tickets: $25-$40. Information: (415) 383-1100 or www.mountainplay.org.