×

Broadway Review: ‘She Loves Me’ With Laura Benanti, Zachary Levi, Jane Krakowski

With:
Laura Benanti, Zachary Levi, Gavin Creel, Byron Jennings, Michael McGrath, Jane Krakowski, Peter Bartlett, Nicholas Barasch.

The Roundabout Theater Company’s enchanting Broadway revival of “She Loves Me” is so charming, you kind of wish it would follow you home. The show is a special triumph for director Scott Ellis, who also staged the company’s first revival (in 1993) of the 1963 musical, with its luscious score by Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harnick and heart-melting book by Joe Masteroff. Laura Benanti and Zachary Levi are endearing as the shy lovers in this intimate romantic comedy, the supporting cast (including Jane Krakowski) constitutes a dream team, and the stagecraft is absolutely flawless. 

The year is 1934, when the sophisticated citizens of Budapest aspired to the level of class and good taste represented by Maraczek’s Parfumerie.  David Rockwell’s alluring shop setting is a beautiful bandbox, stocked with all manner of eye-catching beauty products in sparkling glass cases and vitrines and manned by a sales staff that aspires to be equally elegant and stylish.

“We’re not a butcher shop or a hardware store,” as Sheldon Harnick’s delicious lyrics point out in the opening number (wittily choreographed by Warren Carlyle) in which Maraczek’s opens for business and the sales clerks cater to a chorus of fashionable women dressed in Jeff Mahshie’s chic period costumes. Even the men look snazzy, in their jaunty fedoras.

Miss Amalia Balash (Laura Benanti), who recently lost her job at a rival parfumerie, joins this posh company by proving her savvy at talking rich matrons into buying expensive products they don’t need.  In addition to her glorious soprano voice, Benanti has great comedy chops, a rarity with Broadway divas who aren’t named Patti Lupone. She’s at her best here in a part that has been waiting for her to come along, a part that seems to love her.  The songs “Vanilla Ice Cream” and “Where’s My Shoe?” have her name on them — and that’s that.

It’s close to Christmas and the feeling in the air is generally festive (and candy-colored, in Donald Holder’s upbeat lighting design). But there are darker personal dramas playing out in the house of Maraczek that might blight the holiday spirit.

Miss Ilona Ritter (the divine Krakowski, whose comic gifts know no limits) and Mr. Steven Kodaly (so natty and such a cad, in Gavin Creel’s dashing performance) are having an affair. The affair ends badly, but their flirting builds to a song-and-dance duet (“Ilona”) that’s pure high comedy.

Mr. Maraczek, a lovely man played with dignity by Byron Jennings, has been distraught since he learned that his wife is having an affair — with one of his sales clerks. In a score meticulously orchestrated by Larry Hochman and rich with wall-to-wall musical highlights, including memorable songs like “Dear Friend” and “She Loves Me,” Mr. Maraczek’s bittersweet “Days Gone By” might easily have been lost.

But the intimate drama that really strums the heartstrings is the one between Miss Balash and Mr. Georg Nowack (that rare romantic hero you don’t want to shoot on sight, in Levi’s engaging performance). The two have been exchanging pen pal letters for months without knowing each other’s identity. (The story, based on the play “Parfumerie” by Miklos Laszlo, also served as the inspiration for films including “The Shop Around the Corner” and “You’ve Got Mail.”)  Now it’s time for the pen pals to meet — in the romantic setting of the Cafe Imperiale. In this plush setting a worldly headwaiter (Peter Bartlett, born to play this part and every other one like it) comforts Amalia after her heart is broken (with deep feeling, in Benanti’s lovely rendering of “Dear Friend”).

“She Loves Me” opened during a period when big, fat musicals ruled the day on Broadway (Bock and Harnick’s masterpiece, “Fiddler on the Roof,” being a case in point). This little jewel of a musical may have been lost in its original setting, but we know better now.

she-loves-me-review

Broadway Review: 'She Loves Me' With Laura Benanti, Zachary Levi, Jane Krakowski

Studio 54; 1,006 seats; $147 top. Opened March 17. Reviewed March 11. Running time: TWO HOURS, 30 MIN.

Production: A Roundabout Theater Company production of a musical in two acts, based on a play by Miklos Laszlo, with book by Joe Masteroff, music by Jerry Bock, and lyrics by Sheldon Harnick.

Creative: Directed by Scott Ellis. Choreographed by Warren Carlyle. Music direction by Paul Gemignani. Sets, David Rockwell; costumes, Jeff Mahshie; lighting, Donald Holder; sound, Jon Weston; orchestrations, Larry Hochman; dance arrangements & incidental music, David Krane; hair & wigs, David Brian Brown; makeup, Christian McCulloch; production stage manager, Scott Taylor Rollison.

Cast: Laura Benanti, Zachary Levi, Gavin Creel, Byron Jennings, Michael McGrath, Jane Krakowski, Peter Bartlett, Nicholas Barasch.

More Legit

  • The dark Manhatten skyline, seen from

    StubHub Refunds $500,000 to Customers Shut Out by New York Blackout

    Saturday’s blackout in New York had an outsized effect on the city’s nightlife, with Madison Square Garden and the entire Broadway district seeing multiple shows cancelled due to the the power outage. As a result, StubHub has refunded more than $500,000 worth of tickets for cancelled events. According to a statement from the company, the StubHub [...]

  • Warner Music Group Logo

    Warner Music Acquires Musical Theater Indie First Night Records

    Warner Music Group has acquired First Night Record, an independent record label for West End and Broadway musical theatre cast recordings. The company will be overseen by WMG’s Arts Music Division, led by President Kevin Gore. First Night co-founder John Craig will join the Arts Music team under a multi-year consulting agreement to identify and record musical theatre productions in [...]

  • Broadway

    Broadway Back In Biz After Power Outage Ends

    The bright lights of Broadway were back on Sunday morning as midtown Manhattan recovered from a power outage that lasted nearly seven hours in some areas. Social media was full of examples of how New Yorkers rose to the occasion after the power went out on a hot Saturday night shortly before 7 p.m. ET. [...]

  • The dark Manhatten skyline, seen from

    Power Restored in New York City After Massive Outage Hits Broadway

    UPDATED: Power has gradually been restored to Midtown Manhattan and the theater district after what New York City officials described as a rolling blackout that darkened Times Square and other high-traffic areas on Saturday night. Officials said all power should be restored to the 73,000 customers affected by the outage by midnight ET. Local media [...]

  • Slave Play

    Controversial 'Slave Play' Is Broadway Bound

    “Slave Play,” a controversial drama that examined race and sexuality, is moving to Broadway for a limited run. Written by theatrical wunderkind Jeremy O. Harris, “Slave Play” was a sensation when it ran at the New York Theatre Workshop, drawing such bold-faced names as Madonna, Scarlett Johansson, and Tony Kushner. The show will debut at [...]

  • Mary Said What She Said

    Critic's Notebook: Seeing Isabelle Huppert and Dimitris Papaioannou in Paris

    “Do you miss Paris?” I get that question a lot, but never know what to say. How could I not? The two years I spent in that splendid city covering international cinema for Variety changed my life. “What do you miss most about Paris?” That’s a tough one too. The booksellers on the sidewalk in [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content