Countless Reasons to Love CCM’s “She Loves Me”
Review by Nathan Top
A classic musical rom-com, University of Cincinnati College Conservatory of Music (CCM) production of “She Loves Me” begins with Georg Nowack, a perfume shop clerk who has been writing flirtatious letters with a mysterious pen pal known as “Dear Friend.” When shop owner Maraczek hires an eager young woman Amalia, despite being told by Georg that they are not hiring, Georg is immediately resentful of the new employee. When Amalia is revealed to be Georg’s secret pen-pal, a Shakespearean series of dominoes fall, bringing the young hopeful lovers to an inevitable yet rewarding conclusion. With the book by Joe Masteroff and music and lyrics by Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harnick respectively, the original 1963 was awarded five Tony Award nominations, including Best Musical.
Director and Choreographer Eric Byrd’s production feels fresh and faithful to the material, endlessly charming without being saccharine. Scenic designer Sean Haffey matches the vibrant characters with a colorful and fluid set. Lighting designer Baron Leon illuminates the world, making it feel warm, bright, and joyful.
Costume designer Clara Cavins and wig & make-up designer Tiara Jones effectively tell the story through various costumes and character-aging effects and sound designer Corbin Hopkins strikes a perfect balance of sound between the cast and pit, with clarity of dialogue and lyrics as well as accompaniment from the pit. Musical director Ian Axness’s work with the cast and pit makes this music-heavy show breeze by seamlessly and glow in brighter chorus moments. The reduced pit feels appropriate for the direction of the show and violinist Maria Serrano has a killer solo in the Overture.
The marvelous cast is incredibly engaging, drawing the audience in with enthusiasm and intimacy. Jess Zylstra is snappy and hopeful as anxious love interest Amalia, who truly shines during a beautifully vulnerable musical number “Will He Like Me?” Jack D’Angelo is engaging as Amalia’s pen-pal and love interest Georg, showcasing his physical comedic abilities in the titular song “She Loves Me.”
Stone Mountain plays the womanizing Kodaly, performing one of my favorite numbers of the show, the sexy samba “Ilona” and Zoey Johnson steals the spotlight in act two with her hilarious number “A Trip to the Library.” Tate McElhaney and Stanislav Przedlacki both play compelling roles as Sipos and Maraczek respectively. Admittedly, two of the biggest scene stealers of the show are Ryan Behan (Arpad) with his number “Try Me” and Sean Polk (Head Waiter) with “A Romantic Atmosphere.” The score is filled with a surprising number of show stopping tunes, none of which are wasted with this incredibly talented cast.
University of Cincinnati CCM’s production of “She Loves Me” is impeccably assembled and quite possibly the most joyful production in town, running now through October 9th. Tickets can be purchased here.
Nathan Top is a Cincinnati-based playwright and musician. Nathan works as a freelance trumpeter and pianist, performing in big bands, pit orchestras, and pop groups throughout the area.
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