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Panic! Production’s She Loves Me opened last night (11 September 2015) at the Hillcrest Center for the Arts and what a glorious show! For those of you not in the know, She Loves Me is a musical adaptation of the play by Miklos Laszlo, sharing a story-line with film favorites: The Shop Around the Corner with Jimmy Stewart, In the Good Ol’ Summertime with Judy Garland and You’ve Got Mail with Tom Hanks. It opened on Broadway in 1963 starring the glorious Barbara Cook as Amalia and featured Jack Cassidy as Kodaly and has been a favorite ever since. This new local production promises to be a crowd favorite staying true to the original’s charm, humor, simplicity and romantic love story.
Miriam Durrie-Kirsch helms this intimate production as both Director and Choreographer. She delights audiences by staying true to the show’s material and creating intimacy in the black box theatre where microphones and dramatic backdrops/sets are not necessary to convey the story’s charm. Diann Alexander does well with the tiny band setup and while it would be nice to have heard a violin when one is mentioned but alas just know going in that the band is made up of four capable musicians (two keyboards, one bass, and one percussion). Special props to Set Designer, Rei Yamamoto, for the clever revolving sets, especially Maraczek’s Shop with the gorgeous perfume bottles (heck I wanted to buy one after seeing the sets, lol) on the windowsills. And kudos to Barbara Mazeika (Costume Designer) for her time-appropriate costumes although I do think ensemble member, Alisa De Los Santos (in the red coat), got to wear the best pieces meaning my eyes were constantly on her during company numbers (smart lady!).
As for the casting, I was delighted by all the cast members’ charm and talent. The leading man, Brandon Lloyd (Georg) is a full-time member of the Los Angeles Master Chorale and what a warm voice! It was a pleasant surprise to find out that this is his first musical theatre production. You would never have known without looking at his bio. He conveys great humor, charm, and authority in his performance and that voice is not to miss! Like warm chocolate. His leading lady, the lovely Becca Peyton (Amalia), was equally strong of voice and her soprano made numbers such as I Don’t Know His Name and Vanilla Ice Cream true highlights. My girlfriend, a voice teacher herself, was especially impressed with Mrs. Peyton’s high notes and rendition of Vanilla Ice Cream. And the two of them were irresistible during their second act duet, Where’s My Shoe?, having the audience in stitches with their performance.
The supporting cast was in top shape from adorable Tiffany Asta (Ilona) with the best facial expressions and comedic timing, likable confidant Robert Weibezahl (Sipos), infectiously exuberant Frankie Rodriguez (Arpad), smooth-talking charmer John David Wallis (Kodaly) to Paul Panico‘s gentle portrayal of shop owner Maraczek. The cast was rounded out by Larry Craig (Head Waiter), who’s A Romantic Atmosphere was hilarious, Alex Gonzales (Shopper/Ensemble), Alisa De Los Santos (Shopper/Ensemble), Annie Sherman (Shopper/Tango Dancer/Ensemble), Matthew Markham (Keller/Ensemble) and Noah Terry (Busboy/Ensemble).
So if you are looking for a lighthearted piece of musical theatre with charm, wit, memorable songs — I would highly recommend a visit to the Hillcrest Center for the Arts to catch She Loves Me. (I would happily go again myself if I had the chance, it was that delightful.)
Disclaimer: I received my ticket comped for review purposes but all opinions are my own.