‘She Loves Me’ is a bit­ter­sweet gift

Mu­si­cal’s score, tal­ented cast hit all the right notes

Sun Sentinel Broward Edition - Showtime - Broward - - ON STAGE - By Chris­tine Dolen

The clever courtship of Amalia Balash and Ge­org Nowack has been be­guil­ing au­di­ences ever since Mik­lós Lás­zló invented the un­likely sweet­hearts in his 1937 play “Par­fumerie.”

The Hun­gar­ian play­wright’s stroke of ge­nius was to have the two lonely sin­gles build a ro­man­tic re­la­tion­ship through lone­ly­hearts let­ters — the Match.com of the day — with­out hav­ing met or see­ing a photo of the anony­mous pen pal each ad­dresses as “Dear Friend.” Lás­zló’s wrin­kle is that when Amalia is hired as a clerk at the el­e­gant Maraczek Par­fumerie in Bu­dapest, as­sis­tant man­ager Ge­org takes an in­stant dis­like to his clever new col­league. And the feel­ing is mu­tual.

So while their epis­to­lary con­nec­tion is siz­zling, their in-per­son in­ter­ac­tions are for­ever fiz­zling.

If this sounds fa­mil­iar, you may have seen the 1940 James Ste­wart-Mar­garet Sulla­van movie “The Shop Around the Cor­ner,” the 1949 Judy Gar­land-Van John­son movie mu­si­cal “In the Good Old Sum­mer­time,” the 1963 Jerry Bock-Shel­don Har­nick-Joe Mas­teroff Broad­way mu­si­cal “She Loves Me” or the 1998 Tom Hanks-Meg Ryan movie “You’ve Got Mail.” Though the pen pals’ names, the lo­ca­tions and the time pe­ri­ods were changed in some of th­ese adap­ta­tions, all flowed from Lás­zló’s orig­i­nal no­tion.

“She Loves Me,” twice re­vived on Broad­way and a re­gional theater fa­vorite, has just opened for an en­chant­ing hol­i­day run at Boca Ra­ton’s Wick Theatre. The mu­si­cal re­tains the charm of its long-ago source, adding a

‘She Loves Me’

When: Runs through Dec. 23 Where: The Wick Theatre, 7901 N. Fed­eral High­way, in Boca Ra­ton. Show­times are 7:30 p.m. Wed­nes­day-Satur­day, 2 p.m. Wed­nes­day-Thurs­day and Satur­day-Sun­day. Cost: Tick­ets cost $80. Con­tact: Call 561-995-2333 or go to TheWick.org. soar­ing score full of songs about love, long­ing and in­se­cu­rity, as well as char­ac­ter­re­veal­ing num­bers de­liv­ered by a cad, his ad­ven­tur­ous gal pal, an in­sight­ful fam­ily man, a be­trayed boss and a de­liv­ery boy with moxie.

Fol­low­ing on the heels of its ac­claimed pro­duc­tion of “The Drowsy Chap­er­one,” the Wick is giv­ing its au­di­ences a lov­ingly crafted, beau­ti­fully de­liv­ered, bit­ter­sweet mu­si­cal gift in “She Loves Me.” It’s bit­ter­sweet be­cause award-win­ning mu­si­cal di­rec­tor Michael Larsen, who adapted the score for two pi­anos, died sud­denly just be­fore re­hearsals were to be­gin. Then, Pa­trick Cas­sidy, the pro­duc­tion’s mar­quee star, had to deal with the grave ill­ness and death of his half-brother, for­mer teen idol David Cas­sidy, shortly be­fore the show’s opening.

But as the maxim says, the show must go on. And with di­rec­tor Norb Jo­erder at the helm and co-mu­si­cal di­rec­tors Eric Als­ford and Michael Fried­man at the two pi­anos, “She Loves Me” works its re­li­able magic.

As with its “Drowsy Chap­er­one,” the Wick’s new show soars on the tal­ents of its fine cast, par­tic­u­larly the ac­tors play­ing Amalia and Ge­org.

Carbonell Award win­ner Julie Kleiner, a fre­quent nom­i­nee for her work in ma­jor roles at sev­eral South Florida theaters, has never been bet­ter than she is as the funny, frus­trated Amalia. Her crys­talline so­prano con­veys all the hope and worry in “Will He Like Me?” as well as the sud­den and ut­ter hap­pi­ness Amalia feels when she sings “Vanilla Ice Cream” af­ter dis­cov­er­ing that Dear Friend and her work neme­sis are one and the same.

Matthew Kac­er­gis, who did a na­tional tour as Prince Eric in “The Lit­tle Mer­maid,” is Ge­org to Kleiner’s Amalia. A vet­eran of mu­si­cals at nu­mer­ous re­gional theaters around the coun­try, Kac­er­gis is an ap­peal­ingly mul­ti­fac­eted ac­tor with an ex­quis­ite voice. He im­bues Ge­org’s duets with Amalia with both com­edy and sex­ual ten­sion, and his de­liv­ery of the show’s ti­tle song be­comes a joy­ous ode to re­quited love.

Cas­sidy’s pres­ence in the cast is a poignant one. As Steven Ko­daly, a clerk and cad who spends his off hours (and some of his on-the-clock time) pur­su­ing women, Cas­sidy is tak­ing on a role that won his father Jack a Tony Award in the orig­i­nal pro­duc­tion.

On opening night, Cas­sidy’s mother Shirley Jones — Os­car win­ner, movie mu­si­cal star and the mom to David Cas­sidy’s Keith in TV’s “The Par­tridge Fam­ily” — was in the au­di­ence watch­ing her dash­ing son charm the ladies and the au­di­ence. With ex­ten­sive Broad­way, re­gional, TV and movie cred­its, Cas­sidy is a sea­soned pro who com­mu­ni­cates Ko­daly’s nar­cis­sis­tic in­abil­ity to avoid pur­su­ing which­ever woman cap­tures his fancy at the mo­ment, even if that pur­suit causes pain to oth­ers.

One of those thus in­jured is Ilona Rit­ter, his main (but not only) girl­friend. Played with comedic sass by Lau­ren Wein­berg, who was so mem­o­rable as Ade­laide in the Wick’s “Guys and Dolls,” Ilona be­comes a con­fi­dante to fel­low clerk Amalia and, af­ter “A Trip to the Li­brary,” Julie Kleiner plays the love-struck Amalia Balash. much luck­ier in love.

As shop owner Zoltan Maraczek, Paul Car­lin finds all the nos­tal­gia in “Days Gone By,” and he nav­i­gates the char­ac­ter’s bumpy emo­tional jour­ney with ease. South Florida ac­tor Barry J. Tar­allo brings his warm tenor to the role of Ladislav Si­pos, Ge­org’s fel­low clerk and a mar­ried fam­ily man whose shared wis­dom in “Per­spec­tive” be­comes one of the show’s high­lights. Tep­per Saf­fren’s Ar­pad La­zlo is a charmer of a de­liv­ery boy whose am­bi­tion be- comes ap­par­ent in his big solo, “Try Me.”

With Jo­erder’s clever stag­ing, Kleiner, Kac­er­gis and Tar­allo, plus Kevin Robert Kelly as the Head Waiter and en­sem­ble mem­bers Dalia Ale­man, AJ Cola, Alexan­dra Frost, Lind­sey Johr, Nicole Kinzel, Laura Plyler, Thomas Po­rat, Brian Reiff and Vince Wingerter, turn the ex­tended Café Im­pe­ri­ale scene at the end of the first act into an amus­ing, touch­ing mu­si­cal pot­boiler.

Mu­si­cal theater fans in South Florida have al­ready had sev­eral treats in this early stage of the 2017-2018 sea­son. Though marked by loss be­fore its opening, the Wick’s “She Loves Me” has be­come an early hol­i­day gift for those who ap­pre­ci­ate a time-tested love story glo­ri­ously sung.


Julie Kleiner and Matthew Kac­er­gis find them­selves in love in the Wick Theatre’s “She Loves Me.” The play runs through Dec. 23.

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