She Loves Me

Kelly Gabrielle Murphy and Xander James star in Mac-Haydn Theatre’s production of She Loves Me in Chatham, NY. Original photos by Ann Kielbasa.
Should you rush to Chatham NY for this musical revival, or pass and stay home?

By Andrew Andrews

Long before Internet dating, lonely hearts kindled relationships by writing snail mail letters in response to personal ads placed in local and distant newspapers.

Georg, the assistant manager at Maraczek’s perfume store in 1930s Budapest, is falling in love with a woman he knows only as “Dear Friend” through their correspondence.

When a woman named Amalia convinces his boss to add her to the payroll, their personalities clash, and it seems only their workmate Ladislav notices that underlying romantic tension is the cause.

Unbeknownst to anyone, Amalia is actually Georg’s “Dear Friend,” and plenty of discord occurs as the truth is slowly unraveled.

The fittingly-costumed ensemble performing one of the many musical numbers in the perfume store.

You might not expect much from a small theatre seemingly in the middle of nowhere. If that’s the case, you’ll be blown away by Mac-Haydn’s production of She Loves Me.

With professional talent from New York City and national touring companies supported by an expert director, choreographer and music director, this performance was as polished as it gets, with some of the best singing I’ve heard this far from Broadway.

On the thrust stage surrounded by a masked and vaccinated audience, the actors added subtly-exaggerated precision to every step and perfect crispness to nearly every line.

The whimsical, colorful set, makeup, costumes and smart lighting effects wonderfully conveyed the atmosphere in- and outside of a Hungarian perfumery, and once the orchestra warmed up, I forgot they were live and not a recording.

I especially appreciated the size of the cast, which allowed each named character to be performed by a single actor. This avoids the confusion that often ensues when one person shuffles between multiple roles, and delivers more bang for the buck, fully-justifying the $46 price of admission.

Besides the anti-climatic ending of this otherwise delightful musical, my biggest complaint about this production is with the sound: presumably caused by their wireless mics, the actors’ voices frequently came in-and-out. I actually preferred when the microphones were not working, because the speakers placed above the heads of the audience otherwise disconnected the voices I heard from the lips I saw moving.

Audio issues aside, Mac-Haydn’s production of She Loves Me delivers a thoroughly delightful experience that’s worth traveling many miles to enjoy. Once you step in from the bucolic surroundings, the story transports you to Eastern Europe in the last century, and everyone from the front-of-house to behind-the-scenes will have you quickly forgetting just how far you are from the Great White Way.

4

Andrew Andrews attended She Loves Me at Mac-Haydn Theatre in Chatham on Thursday, August 12, 2021 @ 8:00pm to write this review.

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