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'She Loves Me' celebrates letters

It's a hit. San Diego Musical Theatre has done it.

Based on the 1937 play written by Hungarian playwright Nikolaus Laszio called "Perfumerie," "She Loves Me" is a celebration of the lost art of letter writing. It's a musical based on a bygone era.

It is great fun to observe two antagonistic co-workers duke it out during the day only to rush to their respective mail boxes at night in hopes of finding another "Dear Friend" letter which happens to be from the other.

Naturally, their secret connection through the Lonely Hearts Club newspaper column finally unravels.

Hollywood reworked the play in the 40s for Jimmy Stewart and Margaret Sullivan. The black and white film by MGM was called "The Shop Around the Corner."

In 1998, Nora Ephron took it to the big screen and full color as "You've Got Mail" with Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan introducing the impact of email.

Yet for those of us who know differently, there is still the anticipation connected with waiting for the daily post.

"Has the mail come?" is a frequent question in many households.

There was a time when letter writing was an art form. It required using one's best penmanship on carefully selected paper when writing to a special friend. In contrast, today it seems only bad news comes by mail. Bad manners come by text. And, bad jokes come by email.

Kudos to director Richard Israel for keeping a 50-year-old musical relevant and entertaining.

Every director seeks onstage chemistry and Israel has found it in this cast. Starting at the top is Allison Spratt Pearce as Amalia Balash. She is the beleaguered co-worker of store manager Georg Nowack played by Joshua David Cavanaugh. Their ongoing strife is a secret known only by the audience.

Next up is the elegant and cantankerous shop owner Mr. Maraczek played by Jeffrey Arnold Wolf.

Lucas Blankenhorn shines in his SDMT debut as Arpad Laszlo, the obsequious delivery boy.

Steven Freitas plays loyal clerk and sycophant Ladislav Sipos with a great deal of charm. With all humility, Sipos claims to keep his pride way-down-deep, for as a married man with a family, he favors employment. Further declaring, "Yes, Mr. Maraczek; no, Mr. Maraczek; as you wish Mr. Maraczek" has never been a problem as a married man with children.

Cute and spunky clerk Ilona Ritter is embodied by Sami Nye. Lamenting her sometimes boyfriend Steven Kodaly, played by David Sasik, the ubiquitous toady.

Lauren Haughton is to be congratulated for her clever choreography throughout especially when Ilona sings, "I must be related to a cat, because I always end up with a rat!" smacking her tushy saying "stop that."

Haughton's talent truly shines during the waiter's Hungarian-style dance in the café scene. Possibly a subtle nod to the cleverly constructed mayhem of Harmonia Gardens, her artistic flair sparkles with standout performances by head waiter Dylan Pass and busboy Wyatt Rhinehart.

When the ensemble cast is transformed into chic café society, they are the epitome of sophistication. Setting the stage on fire is Cassie Bleher, Evan Borboa, Morgan Carberry, Chase Fischer, Alexa Querin, Aaron Jerry Skipper, and even Christopher Szabo as Mr. Keller.

Musical director Don Le Master asserts his skill as he glides through the score with Billy Edwall on trumpet, Lisa Cherry on horn, Nico Hueso on viola, Patty McCormick on violin, Steve Withers and Michelle Gray on keys, while Sharon Taylor plays cello. Mark Margolies, Amy Kalal and Ariana Warren play reeds. Tim Glaude is on bass and Mike Dooley percussion.

Andrew Orbison is the associate conductor at SDMT. Le Master conducts this glorious orchestra to a triumphant conclusion.

To subsidize the ongoing cost associated with a live orchestra, two big band shows will be held at The Horton Theatre Monday, April 20, and Tuesday, April 21, at 7 p.m.

Last year's show was a sellout requiring a second show this year. Tickets go fast and all are only $55 each. Call (858) 560-5740 or visit and click on "Don L and The SDMT Big Band."

"She Loves Me" plays until March 8 downtown at The Horton Theatre at 444 Fourth Street in San Diego. Prepaid parking is available on their website across the street at the Ace Parking lot in the Gaslamp District. It's a breeze.

This show is rated 10 out of 10.

Elizabeth Youngman-Westphal can be reached at [email protected].


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