Sunday, 3 July 2016

Review: She Loves Me, Studio 54 via BroadwayHD

"They all come here just for the mood"

It's nice to know that you have good karma, sometimes at least, as I came very close to seeing She Loves Me on my last flying visit to Broadway, opting for Waitress instead at the last minute. So it was most gratifying to hear that She Loves Me was to become the first ever Broadway show to be live-streamed on BroadwayHD, following in the footsteps of the hugely successful NTLive enterprise (and that the show would be available for the following seven days on catch-up, making up for the time difference).

The merits (or otherwise) of live-streaming have long been debated and will likely continue to be so for years to come as circular arguments go round and round. But as long as you accept that no, a recording will never be as good as the live thing and yes, it is an amazing thing to have accessibility increased in this way, it seems to me that everyone is a winner, especially with a show on a limited engagement like She Loves Me, which closes at Studio 54 on 10th July. Speaking of which, you've only got until 7th July to catch it on BroadwayHD.

For the show itself, part of Roundabout's 50th anniversary season, it is a near-perfect music-box of a production. Based on Miklós László's play Parfumerie which has been remade more than once as films The Shop Around The Corner, In The Good Old Summertime, and You've Got Mail, Joe Masterhoff's book pits warring Budapest shop employees Georg Nowack and Amalia Balash against each other, little knowing that they are corresponding anonymously through a lonely hearts column - will they get together in the end? What do you think?!

Much of the joy of She Loves Me comes in Jerry Bock's effervescent score (lyrics by Sheldon Harnick) which fizzes and pops in all the right places, evoking a classic age of musical theatre and one which is perfectly delivered by the rainbow-brightness of Laura Benanti's pure soprano (such a rarity to hear a legit soprano role) and the gentlemanly charm of Zachary Levi, whose rendition of the title song is just joyous. They bicker with brio and disagree with real dynamism and make an ideal match who truly light up the stage (and screen!).

But Scott Ellis' production is no one-couple-show, it is also blessed with a superlative supporting turn from Jane Krakowski as fellow shopworker Ilona, smitten by the dastardly Kodaly (a dapper Gavin Creel doing well to mask his general loveliness) and who demonstrates that she's more flexible in her 40s than many of us will ever be in our entire lifetime. Peter Bartlett's Head Waiter gets an eye-catching dance turn pre-interval, Nicholas Barasch's appealing delivery boy Arpad shines immediately post-interval - it really is a wonderfully democratic show.

David Rockwell's picture-book of a set looks like a dream, Warren Carlyle's choreography sparkles like snowflakes, and Paul Gemignani's musical direction keeps the whole thing sound peachy, it really is a superb production. And credit to David Horn who directed the live-stream, for capturing so much of what makes the show work. I welcome the arrival of Broadway on the live-streaming stage and look forward to hearing what else we might be able to see soon without having to cross the ocean. 


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