Clay & Wattles Theater Company presents She Loves Me at The Gary-The Olivia Theatre on the grounds of the Abbey of Regina Laudis in Bethlehem. This musical by Jerry Bock, Sheldon Harnick and Joe Masteroff is one of those feel good shows that makes summer lighter and brighter no matter a matinee or evening performance.
As usual director/choreographer Sally Camm has masterfully brought together a fine cast. Music Director, Dr. Fernando Jiménez has also brought together seven talented musicians. While most of the cast has outstanding voices, all of them look perfect for their roles.
Monica Charline Brown as Amalia Balash not only has a great deal of regional theatre productions to her credit, but she also plenty of film experience as well. That’s not surprising since she has incredible stage presence and a soprano voice that thrills audiences. Now, she is playing a young woman who falls in love with an anonymous young man who writes beautiful letters to her. She is a member of the “Lonely Hearts Club” and though she has never met this man, and doesn’t even know his name, she has fallen in love with him through their correspondence. They read the same books and like the same things.
The man that Amalia falls in love with is Georg Nowack played with an endearing and modest sophistication by Peter Newes. He loves her, too, just because of her letters. Since they communicate through the Lonely Hearts Club, their names are withheld. What neither of the lovers realize is that they are both employees at the same perfume shop. Even more ironically, they dislike each other at the shop and have no idea that they are the letter writers to each other.
When they finally agree in their correspondence to meet at a local café, they are both surprised. He realizes who she is, but she just thinks that Georg is from the shop. It is when she is heart sick and stays out of work because she thinks she has been stood up, that Georg brings her vanilla ice cream to cheer her up. She begins to look at Georg differently. She realizes he is a kind man and tells him that now she likes him. It doesn’t take long until the two of them figure things out and fall passionately in love with each other.
Peter Newes, who recently delivered a stellar performance in Outside Mullingar, once again earns the audience’s affection and applause with his natural charm and charisma. Of course, he also has a strong melodious voice in this show adding to his accolades.
Chris McCoy plays a proper cad and Steve Sorriero looks like a dapper shop owner. Jonah Kramer not only sings and acts well, but he is quite an acrobatic dancer as well. He looks like just the kind of actor who might easily steal a show in future productions. Kristen Van Derlyn as Ilona Ritter in the supporting female role demonstrates what good acting is all about and so too Russel Sawacki.
Others in the cast include: Alex Gellweiler, Barbara Salant, Alexandra Camm, and Eliana Valdivieso. Even though Susan Pettibone played a minor role, she stood out from the rest. She’s a natural and her facial expressions and strong vocals add to her fine performance. She has plenty of experience on her list of credits.
I would be remiss if I didn’t give credit to costume designer Lesley Neilson Bowman. Her period designs were spot on for the 1930s and the female characters wore dresses that often looked as delicate and lovely as spun sugar. Kudos also to set designer Matt Wood.
While the seven musicians were quite wonderful, unfortunately too often they played so loudly that they drowned out the actors. Since this beautiful show is sung through with lyrics that move the action of the play, the audience doesn’t need to lose one single word.
This fine production plays through Aug. 12. Box office: 203-273-5669.
Joanne Greco Rochman is a founding member of the Connecticut Critics Circle and is an active member in the American Theatre Critics Association. She welcomes comments. Contact: [email protected].