By Alan Jozwiak
Great singing dominates “She Loves Me,” the latest offering of University of Cincinnati’s College Conservatory of Music’s Musical Theater program, which is a 1960’s musical adaptation of the Miklos Laszlo play about love in a Hungarian parfumerie.
“She Loves Me” sings the story of Amalia Balash (Jess Zylstra), who gets hired as a saleswoman at Maraczek‘s Parfumeriea and comes into conflict with the assistant manager Georg Nowack (Jack D’Angelo). Amalia finds solace in her Dear Friend lonely-hearts pen pal. Unfortunately, her Dear Friend turns out to be none other than Georg Nowack. Complications ensure (as befitting a romantic musical) before the couple is able to come to a happy ending.
If this premise sounds familiar, it forms the basis of the popular 1998 film “You’ve Got Mail.”
“She Loves Me” is performed in the Cohen Family Studio Theatre, the perfect place for this cozy intimate musical. Scenic Designer Sean Haffey created an essentially bare space so that certain set pieces referencing the Parfumeriea, the Cafe Imperiale, and a few other places can be easily rolled in and out. It is Directed and Choreographed by Eric Byrd.
What struck me about this production is that it is filled with strong performers whose vocal talents get showcased throughout the musical.
Jess Zylstra, who plays the role of Amalia Balash, leads the cast. She is the perfect combination of an incredibly strong singer and a magnetic personality onstage who plays the part of the sales lady to perfection. She soars in “Will He Like Me?,” “Dear Friend,” and my favorite “Vanilla Ice Cream”–all while demonstrating the pain and confusion of a woman navigating the complex terrain of love. Her performance is a delight.
Jack D’Angelo, who plays the role of Georg Nowack, is also strong. He looks the part of the assistant manager, and delivers some really strong vocals on “Tonight at Eight” and “She Loves Me.” D’Angelo is also adept in comedic performance, doing some very funny routines at different points in the show. He even somersaults after singing “She Loves Me.”
The supporting cast is also strong in the singing department. Tate McElhaney as Sipos deliver a wonderful rendition of “Perspective,” a song in which he outlines his philosophy on life and making waves at work. Equally wonderful is Zoey Johnson as Ilona who sings about meeting her beau called “A Trip to the Library” and Stone Mountain as Kodaly who sings his farewell in “Grand Knowing You.”
The only fault I have with the production is that the direction of the actors felt like it was for a much larger space. They gesticulate and play out to an audience of several thousand as opposed to several hundred. My seat in the second row highlighted this effect, and some of the humanity of the production was lost. However, the overall quality of production made me invest in the characters more than other productions. I honestly cared for the fate of Mr. Maraczek (Stanislav Przedlacki) at the end of Act One.
If you want a musical bon-bon that is a smooth as “Mona Lisa body lotion” and filled with romance, “She Loves Me” is the musical for you. This musical only runs one weekend, with performances running October 6 to October 9, 2022, and most are sold out. For ticket availability, call the CCM Box Office at 513-556-6638 or CLICK HERE.
Alan Jozwiak is a local playwright, UC English Composition instructor, Comics Scholar and has been with with LCT for over 10 years.