Lighthearted, romantic and a bit comical are three ways to describe “She Loves Me.” With all of these elements at hand, it should not come as a surprise that the musical is already charming many South Florida theatergoers.
Presented by Florida Atlantic University’s (FAU) Department of Theatre and Dance as part of its Festival Rep 2015, “She Loves Me” is a tale that may sound familiar: Two office workers cannot stand each other in person but do not realize that they are falling in love through anonymous letters. The musical received five Tony nominations when it premiered in 1964 and won an Olivier award in 1993.
If you’re wondering why this plot rings a bell, “She Loves Me” is based off Mikos Laszlo’s play “Parfumerie,” which has had several modern adaptations, including the 1940 Margaret Sullavan-James Stewart film “The Shop Around The Corner” and the 1998 Tom Hanks-Meg Ryan film “You’ve Got Mail.
“[“She Loves Me” is] such a happy, charming show,” says Madison Spear, an ensemble member and graduate of American Heritage High School. “So many times these days stories and shows deal with very depressing subject matter. I think [happiness is] very refreshing to see nowadays.”
The musical features a timeless book by Joe Masteroff, best known for his Broadway hit “Cabaret,” and a romantic score with music by Jerry Bock and lyrics by Sheldon Harnick. Though it is the wonderful ensemble of actors who make the show as great as it is.
Leading the cast as the unsuspecting lovers are Connor Padilla and Megan Buzzard. The likable Padilla shines whenever he walks onstage, reaching a high point during “Tonight at Eight.” The song is a comedic panic of everything that can go wrong on a first date, to which many will relate.
The fact that Padilla, a Master of Fine Arts graduate student at FAU, could hold his own alongside Buzzard is quite remarkable. Buzzard, a guest actress from the Actor’s Equity Association, has several regional and New York credits and traveled with the national tour of “The Music Man” as Marian Paroo. Throughout all of her solos, Buzzard takes command of the stage and enjoys wonderful chemistry with each of the actors.
Perhaps the most entertaining characters onstage were the main characters’ coworkers, Arpad Laszlo, Ladislov Sipos and Ilona Ritter, who are played respectively by Joe Anarumo, Joey De La Rua and Emily Freeman. The trio provides comic relief throughout the show and has a chance to fully develop their subplots.
Anarumo, a graduate of West Boca High School, explained that having Buzzard on-hand is a great teaching tool and opportunity for the college students.
“Over the summer, FAU produces two—or sometimes three—shows that run in repertory. Our school hires an Equity stage manager and several guest Equity actors to perform alongside the undergraduates and grad students alike,” Anarumo says. “This is a supremely fortunate experience to gain mentors in either the technical or performance aspects of the productions. In addition, we students are eligible to apply for the Equity Membership Candidacy program and start earning points toward joining the Actor’s Equity Association.”
While not often used, the ensemble is incredible during the few large group numbers. “A Romantic Atmosphere” from the first act and “Twelve Days to Christmas” from the second act are highlights for the ensemble, as the performers expend all of their energy while inhabiting interesting characters.
One ensemble member, Jade Zaroff, is not a student at FAU, but is thoroughly enjoying her experience. The West Boca High School graduate also has a special tie to the show.
“[One] thing that drew me to this show was the fact that my great uncle [the aforementioned Masteroff] is the librettist of the show,” Zaroff says. “It has been such an incredible experience, not to mention FAU’s amazing opportunity for the students to receive Equity points. I couldn’t have asked for a better show to be involved with this summer.”
The musical’s ending seems to come too soon and leaves the audience wanting more, but it does not leave any storyline incomplete. This enduring love story can be enjoyed by all audiences and should not be missed.
“She Loves Me” runs at FAU’s University Theater until July 26, and tickets can be purchased through fauevents.com or ticketmaster.com or by calling 800/564-9539.