“She Loves Me”…

Barker Playhouse performs a musical love letter

Theatre Review by IDA ZECCO
Posted 12/6/23

Would you like a reprieve from your mall wandering, your internet shopping, your holiday decorating and your cookie baking? Let me invite you to take a two-hour journey into the amazing, old-world …

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“She Loves Me”…

Barker Playhouse performs a musical love letter


Would you like a reprieve from your mall wandering, your internet shopping, your holiday decorating and your cookie baking? Let me invite you to take a two-hour journey into the amazing, old-world Maraczek’s Parfumerie in 1930 Budapest.

In its 115th season, The Players at the Barker Playhouse, Providence, presents the musical, “She Loves Me,” written by Joe Masteroff, music by Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harnick, as its second production of the year. It is directed by Joan Dillenback with musical direction by Joe Carvalho. This is a very nice alternative to the standard, theatrical productions during this holiday season. The show runs through Sunday, December 10.

The Players’ production, is under the direction of Joan Dillenback. Dillenback chose an evenly talented cast with a solid ensemble of actors, singers and dancers. They are well blocked in some complex movement, including dance, flowing well in each scene.  Dillenbeck draws the best out of every performer and the result proves delightful.

Joseph Carvalho’s musical direction produces beautiful choral harmonies with the lead players, as well as the entire ensemble.  Carvalho leads the orchestra on keyboards. The music is even and well-paced.

Stage Managers, Eva Coffey and Alyson Conroy keep the flow of this production moving nicely. 

The story centers around the employees of Maraczek’s Parfumerie, the premier destination for ladies' cosmetics in the bustling city of Budapest during the 1930s. There’s Ilona Ritter, played with comedic gusto by Becky Kilcline who keeps entangling herself with the worst kind of men; Ladislav Sipos, the anxious husband and father who needs to keep his job, played by Kenneth McPherson; and Georg Nowack, a hopeless romantic who would prefer to be seen as anything but played by Tylar Jahumpa. Arpad Laszlo is delightfully played by Dean Hernandez.  Then, the smarmiest of characters, Steven Kodaly, played by Steven Dulude. 

Their boss, Mr. Maraczek, played with equal doses of intimidation and fatherliness by Roger Lemlin, knows the goldmine he has in the store and expects the best from his off-kilter staff. But the professional balance of the perfumery is thrown into disarray upon the arrival of Amalia Balash, a clever woman who needs a job.

Amalia is played by Victoria Stranger, gave one of the finest vocal performances this reviewer has heard in a long time. Stranger, a soprano, displays impeccable vocal control throughout her performance, bringing nuance and confidence to every song. Her stellar vocals are matched by curated character choices that render her Amalia, breathtakingly alive.

The plot thickens as Amalia and Georg lock horns as only two people who stumble upon an unforeseen mutual attraction can do to one another. They bicker and prod, but what neither of them knows is that they both have been writing amorous letters to anonymous sweethearts — which happen to be to each other.

One of the strengths of “She Loves Me” is that it is a true ensemble piece. In “Romantic Atmosphere,” a headwaiter, played by Anthony De Rose and his clumsy busboy, Nathan Pothier, sang and danced their way through setting the right romantic mood. The song is a laugh factory of chaos. With the help of its talented ensemble, it was the show's most raucous musical feast. Pothier’s dancing and acrobatic performance is worth the price of the ticket! 

Becky Kilcline dazzled with her strong alto vocals in both “I Don’t Know His Name,” a duo she shares with Victoria Stranger, and in a comical and well sung, “A Trip to the Library.” 

Kenneth McPherson, from the outset, plays both a friendly and charming Sipos which is aptly displayed through his beautiful vocals in “Perspective.”

Roger Lemelin’s Maraczek, succeeds splendidly in his role as both father-guardian to his staff and shop owner.  His “Days Gone By,” pulled heartstrings as he recalled a younger, more debonair Maraczek.

How could any woman resist the irresistibility of Steven Dulude in the role of Steven Kodaly?  With both charm and good looks, it is no wonder that women are caught in his welcoming clutches.  It is sometimes difficult to tell the difference between polished and slippery and Dulude played this to the hilt.  His marvelous voice with its amazingly clear range brought the house down with “Grand Knowing You.”

Dean Hernandez’s well-acted, Arpad Laszlo, provided an authenticity that was animated without being over the top, as the delivery boy who yearns to be a sales clerk. In a moving number “Try Me,” the joyful energy between Hernandez and Lemelin was palpable.

But it’s the back-to-back 11 o’clock numbers of “Vanilla Ice Cream” and the well-known, “She Loves Me” that provided pure, musical bliss. Stranger is at her most playful in this number, as her vocals soar.  “She Loves Me” is where Jahumpa shines — both physically and vocally.  Amalia and Georg finally express their finding and accepting love, and Stranger and Jahumpa delivered renditions that are sure to melt even the iciest of hearts. 

From this reviewer’s perspective, it is important to note needed improvements to this production that were distractions to this otherwise stellar production.  First, that the set design, the set construction and some of the set pieces were not of the same quality standard as the performances. 

Second, kudos to Costume Designers, Becky Kilcline and Whitney Cummer dressing an entire cast in period attire.  However, a couple of the costumes did not compliment Kilcline or Stranger and appeared ill-fitted.  Scarves and coats were awkward to put on or take off which is uncomfortable for actors to experience and audiences to see.

However, none of this diminished the audience’s enthusiasm. This was a well-received musical and a fine choice for theatergoers during this holiday season. 

Presented by: The Players
Location: Barker Playhouse, 400 Benefit Street, Providence
Times/Dates: Fri & Sat: 12/1, 2, 8 & 9 at 7:30 p.m. & Sun: 12/3 & 10 at 2:00 p.m.
Price: $30
Box Office: 401-273-0590 or www.playersri.org/main-stage


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