In the age of online dating, you never know if the person you’ve corresponded with online is going to be everything you’d hope for in person.
The same is true in the age of responding to personal ads in newspapers in “She Loves Me,” set in 1937 in Budapest and closing at the Broad Brook Opera House this coming weekend.
Georg Nowack (Michael Graham Morales), a manager at Maraczek’s Parfumerie, is in love with a woman he knows as “Dear Friend,” who he found through a lonely hearts advertisement and writes letters to as he works his way up to meeting with her. Meanwhile a persistent young woman named Amalia Balash (Jennifer McCann) pushes her way into a job at the perfume shop and they quickly seem to despise each other. Or so they think.
Come to find out, Amalia is also writing to a “Dear Friend” and we find out they are actually corresponding with each other in a brilliant use of dramatic irony that drives the humor and intrigue in the plot.
It’s reminiscent of a more modern day telling of that story, albeit set in the late ’90s — “You’ve Got Mail,” starring Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks. In the movie, two people who hate each other in real life are actually corresponding anonymously with each other online, falling in love through a series of emails.
There’s a reason they’re so similar. “You’ve Got Mail” is said to be based on an older movie called “The Shop Around the Corner,” which is the name of Meg Ryan’s character’s book store in the film, according to mtv.com. The movies and “She Loved Me” are all re-imagined versions of the Hungarian play, “Parfumerie,” according to variety.com.
Any time you go to Broad Brook Opera House, you can expect the vocals to be no less than stellar. McCann’s voice in particular soared as her operatic soprano timbre fluttered with vibrato and the sweetness of vanilla ice cream. A song by that name in the show probably leaves many an audience member wanting the tasty frozen treat!
Morales shifts in demeanor as Nowack from Act I to Act II from a curmudgeon to a gentleman, his character perhaps transforming the more he writes to “Dear Friend.”
In some parts the play drags because there is little action and so much of the characters are expressed using the soliloquy of songs to convey interior monologues. But in other regards, characters take huge impulsive leaps. For instance, Nowack and Balash fall for each other far too quickly once their identities are revealed. The play is also supposed to be set in Budapest, though there didn’t seem to be a trace of it visually or in the characters’ voices.
However, the set was beautiful. Despite some clunky changes and some apparent minor mishaps like the exterior of the perfume shop showing when they were in a bedroom, the aesthetics of the show were astonishing and there was high visual attention to detail. The costumes were lovely, as well.
Martina Haskins plays Ilona Ritter with sass. Michael Lorenzo’s quirky expressions and twitchy movements as parfumerie salesman Ladislave Sipos infuses the story with humor and invokes laughter.
Others in the cast include Tomm Knightlee as Steven Kodaly, Brad Shepard as Mr. Maraczek, Michelle Ortize-Saltmarsh, Tammy Young Cote, Reva Kleppel, Deb Brigada and Barbara LaValley as customers, Barbara LaValley as the music box lady, Thomas Schutz as Keller, Bob Laviolette as a waiter, Madeline Lukomski Busgirl, Robert Lunde as Victor, Thomas Schutz s Hugo, Cote again as Stephanie and the nurse and T. Schutz as Madame Brunnhilde. Ortiz-Saltmarsh, Kleppel and Cote also played the Goulash girls and were part of the Budapest Five, along with LaValley and Brigada. Joshua Prouser, Kleppel, Lunde, Cote, Chutz, Ortiz-Saltmarsh, Brigada and LaValley also played restaurant couples. Schutz and Ortiz-Saltmarsh played a tangoing couple.
The orchestra was small and exquisite, but the sound was full and sometimes overpowered the voices.
It’s always a treat to see a show at the quaint opera house. The downside of the location is the nearby fire station, so every time a truck goes out on a call and the siren goes off, they will stop the production and pause for sound purposes. But otherwise I love the opera house and look forward to many future shows there, including “Avenue Q” and “Into the Woods” later this year.
“She Loves Me” has its last shows Sept. 25-27 at 8 p.m. on Friday and Saturday and 2 p.m. on Sunday. More information on the production, opera house and tickets are available on the opera house’s website, http://smplayers.homestead.com. It was directed by Meghan Lynn Allen, musically directed by Steven D. Cirillo and choreographed by Karen Anne McMahon. Greg Trochlil designed the set, Moonyean Field served as the producer and costumer and Jessica Russell stage managed.
The Broad Brook Opera House is located at 107 Main street in Broad Brook, Connecticut. You can reach the box office at 860-292-6068.