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

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.


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

  • Danielle Brooks'Ain't Too Proud - The

    How 'Orange Is the New Black' Star Danielle Brooks Became a Broadway Producer

    Danielle Brooks earned a Tony nomination when she made her Broadway debut as Sofia in the 2015 revival of “The Color Purple,” but now the “Orange Is the New Black” star is working behind the scenes as a producer on the new jukebox musical “Ain’t Too Proud: The Life and Times of the Temptations.” “I [...]

  • Ain't Too Proud review

    Broadway Review: 'Ain't Too Proud'

    In the wake of the long-running “Jersey Boys” and the short-lived “Summer,” director Des McAnuff is back on Broadway with another show built around the song catalog of a music act — and although “Ain’t Too Proud” has all the right sounds and slick moves, this bio-musical of the R&B vocal group the Temptations is [...]

  • 'White Noise' Theater Review: Suzan-Lori Parks

    Off Broadway Review: Daveed Diggs in 'White Noise'

    Any new play by the Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Suzan-Lori Parks (“Topdog / Underdog”) demands — and deserves — attention. And in its premiere production at the Public Theater, her latest, “White Noise,” opens with a burst of brainy energy that lasts through the first act. But it takes a nosedive in the sloppy second half, [...]

  • Alexander Dinelaris

    'Jekyll and Hyde' Movie in the Works Based on Broadway Musical

    The Broadway musical “Jekyll and Hyde” is getting the movie treatment from Academy Award winner Alexander Dinelaris. Dinelaris, who is writing and producing the adaptation, won an Oscar for the “Birdman” script and was a co-producer on “The Revenant.” He is producing “Jekyll and Hyde” as the first project under his New York-based development company, [...]

  • Sam Mendes

    Listen: The 'Balls-Out Theatricality' of Sam Mendes

    If you find yourself directing a Broadway play with a cast so big it includes a goose, two rabbits, more kids than you can count and an actual infant, what do you do? If you’re Sam Mendes, you embrace the “balls-out theatricality” of it all. Listen to this week’s podcast below: “There is a kind [...]

  • James Corden Tony Awards

    James Corden to Host 2019 Tony Awards (EXCLUSIVE)

    James Corden has been tapped to once again host the Tony Awards, Variety has learned exclusively. “The Late Late Show” host previously emceed the annual theater awards show in 2016, and won the Tony for best actor in a play for his performance in “One Man, Two Guvnors” in 2012. “I’m thrilled to be returning to [...]

  • Frozen review Broadway

    ‘Frozen’ the Musical Opening in London in 2020

    “Frozen” the musical is coming to London and will open in the West End in fall 2020. The Michael Grandage-directed Disney Theatrical Productions stage show has been on Broadway for a year. Grandage’s production is now set to re-open Andrew Lloyd Webber’s refurbished Theatre Royal Drury Lane. Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez are behind the [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content