Sheldon Harnick and Jerry Bock wrote musicals that danced on the edge of the treacle pot. Sometimes they fell in, but most of their work was clever and warm, both hands filled with love as they reached out to their audience. Their shows included "Fiddler on the Roof," "Fiorello!" "The Apple Tree," and "She Loves Me," which runs through Sunday and which is a warm and cuddly delight.
A production of Insight Theatre, it's splendid summer entertainment, with winning performances from a talented and youthful cast and delightful direction by Edward Coffield.
"She Loves Me," first produced in 1963, is based on "Parfumerie," a play about mistaken identity, cheating spouses, management tactics and the Christmas season, set in a Budapest perfume store. It also has served as the base for movies like "The Little Shop Around the Corner" and "You've Got Mail," among others.
Georg (Martin Fox) is a clerk in Maraczek's shop, where Ed Reggi is a first-rate Maraczek, playing it well over the top. A solid veteran, Reggi keeps the action nicely contained. Georg has a pen-pal, who he is afraid to meet. Kodaly (excellent work from Troy Turnipseed), another clerk, is a love-'em-and-leave-'em Lothario, with an eye for Ilona (Jenni Ryan) and a deeply superior attitude. Jeffrey Carter is a delight as Sipos, still another clerk, and the wonderful Colton Pometta is Arpad, the delivery boy who rides a pink bicycle and dreams of being promoted to clerk.
Pometta, who has trained with the Webster Conservatory and the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts (RADA), is brilliant. He's a born character actor or comic, with big, Eddie Cantor-esque eyes, marvelous body control, perfect timing and a future as bright as all outdoors. He'll be back here soon in something major. And in one important scene, he portrays a waiter with superb comic style and grace. This is a young man to watch, or to hear in "Try Me," his impressive job application.
About the time we get these people organized, Maraczek hires a new clerk, Amalia (the charming Katy Tibbets) and guess who her pen-pal is. Tibbets has lovely dimples, though not quite as deep and as demanding of attention as Ryan's, and she sings well, though there were several raw edges at last nght's performance. Her acting is not quite as strong, but enough for the ingenue spot.
A young eight-person ensemble offers some excellent work in a variety of tasks, customers at the shop, folks on the street who sing and dance up a storm here and there. Red-haired dancer Emily Fisher was a standout, as were Jordan Parente and Jacob Lacoco.
Ryan was in fine form in a couple of big songs; her ode to her library and to her opthalmologist, "A Trip to the Library," was a delight, as was an outburst of conscience in "I Resolve." Tibbets' work in the tentative, self-doubting "Will He Like Me?" was strong, as was the charming and sweet "Vanilla Ice Cream" and the winsome "Dear Friend."
Fox, an excellent physical actor with a strong voice and good comic ability, impressed with "She Loves Me," one of the few songs from the show to have a later life of its own, and in the comic duet, "Where's My Shoe?" as he and Tibbets search.
Coffield's direction, Ross Bell's musical direction and Michael Baxter's choreography all scored high; on a couple of occas ions there simply was too much stage for the set, and Laura Hanson's costumes seemed appropriate. Splendid for summer.
She Loves Me, an Insight Theatre Company production, runs through Sunday at the Heagney Theatre on the campus of Nerinx Hall