The Roundabout Theater’s production of “She Loves Me,” which opened in June, was a charming revival of a charming show.
Now James M. Nederlander and Elliot Martin have moved it to the Brooks Atkinson (with help from Herbert Wasserman, Freddy Bienstock and Roger L. Stevens) — taking a big risk on a 30-year-old musical whose attributes are thoroughly old-fashioned.
That gamble deserves to pay off: At the Atkinson, the show looks better, sounds better and, notwithstanding the shift to a theater twice the size of the Roundabout’s Criterion Center, is even more intimate. With Tony Walton’s turntable set thrusting out into the audience, many theatergoers will feel as close to the employees in Maraczek’s Parfumerie as the customers who breeze through its doors.
Though the set still doesn’t rank among Walton’s finest, it’s acquired a nice patina and lost its tackiness, for which some credit is surely due lighting designer Peter Kaczorowski.
There has been one major cast change: Diane Fratantoni has replaced Judy Kuhn as Amalia Balash, the letter-writing shop clerk who finds that her anonymous correspondent is her comic nemesis, store manager Georg Nowack (Boyd Gaines). Kuhn brought an appealing, melancholyquality to the role that Fratantoni lacks. But the new Amalia has a fine, full-bodied, if somewhat bland, soprano and delivers where it counts, which is in the singing.
Gaines and the rest of the cast, topped by Howard McGillin, Sally Mayes, Louis Zorich, Lee Wilkoff and Brad Kane, are by now completely at ease in their roles.
“She Loves Me” doesn’t have any descending chandeliers and the theater won’t turn into a flashing, gyrating pinball machine. It’s 100% musical, and 100% pleasure.