This delightful musical explores the struggle to find – and keep – love.
They snap, they snarl, they can’t bear each other…and it’s perfectly obvious to everyone else that Amalia Balash and Georg Nowak would make a lovely couple. Unbeknown to either of them, they are also pen pals, lonely hearts looking for love via the route of anonymous letter writing. But of course the very modern knack of painting a glowing portrait of yourself online is just as easily done with pen and ink, and both writers blush when they reflect on how they’ve embroidered the truth about their lives and looks.
This is the very successful premise of She Loves Me, the charming musical by Jerry Bock, Sheldon Harnick and Joe Masteroff. It’s based on Parfumerie, a 1936 play by Hungarian author Miklos Laszlo, whose work in turn formed the basis of 1998 Hollywood hit You’ve Got Mail.
As a musical it was a huge success in London in 1994, starring Ruthie Henshall and John Gordon Sinclair as Amalia and Georg.
Here at the Landor Theatre under musical director Iain Vince-Gatt, She Loves Me has its own star in Charlotte Jaconelli, familiar to many as a finalist in 2012’s series of Britain’s Got Talent, in which she sang alongside Jonathan Antoine.
This is Jaconelli’s theatrical debut. Her fiery moods may be more convincing than Amalia’s softer side, but her soaring vocal performance is beautifully judged for the snug space. There’s a delicious fury to Where’s My Shoe (and what girl wouldn’t be cross to be roused from her sickbed by a male colleague?), swiftly followed by Vanilla Ice Cream, as her heart begins to melt.
Her would-be lover, Georg, is played by John Sandberg, whose humble, self-effacing shop assistant of the first half bursts into life with a no-holds-barred rendition of the title song, She Loves Me. He becomes a man wildly in love who realises the feeling might just be reciprocated, and his outpouring of emotion is touching and energising all at once.
There’s also a delightfully spry and enthusiastic Arpad, the ambitious delivery boy, from Joshua LeClair, who has a wonderful smile and scene-stealing vocals both in the opening ensemble number and his solo, Try Me.
Emily Lynne is also outstanding. She sparkles with charm and good humour as Ilona Ritter, who eventually realises that the love of a good librarian is much more reliable than the dazzle of gorgeous cad like Stevan Kodaly (Matthew Wellman).
And the youngsters are all kept suitably in check by Ian Dring as boss Mr Maraczek.
Directed by Robert McWhir, the company give the ensemble pieces vigour and flair, with some nifty dance moves choreographed by Robbie O’Reilly.
David Shields’ set for Maraczek’s Parfumerie is a careful designed and lovingly carved swirl of deco-style elegance. Any of the costumes that aren’t from the Landor’s own extensive collection are made or sourced by David, alongside associate costume designer Nina Morley.
She Loves Me is a heartwarming and very appealing show, and this production creates a rousing celebration of love in all its guises.
Continues until 7 March at the Landor Theatre, Clapham.
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