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Review: There’s a lot to love in Good Company’s charming ‘She Loves Me’

THEATER REVIEW

How do I love thee, “She Loves Me”? Let me count the ways. The Good Company Players production of the classic musical at the 2nd Space Theatre is special. Let me spell it out for you:

Sis for Sweet. That’s the best word to describe this cheery little show. In a nutshell: George and Amalia work in a charming little 1930s parfumerie in Eastern Europe. They don’t get along. What they fail to realize is that each has been writing letters to the other as part of a lonely-hearts correspondence club (which, for you digital youngsters, is the precursor to Match.com and, er, Tinder). On paper they’re perfect for each other. But what happens when they meet in person?

His for Humor. There’s a lot else going on in Maraczek’s Parfumerie, too, as we get to know the other people who work in the store. There’s Ilona (Kaley Marsh), who’s carrying on a torrid affair with Steven (Michael Fidalgo), an obnoxious cad who takes her for granted. Arpad (Jeremy Marks), the store’s delivery boy, wants nothing more than to be a salesman. The owner of the shop, Mr. Maraczek (Roger Christensen), is decidedly grumpy because he suspects his wife is cheating on him. Ladislav (Lex Martin) just wants to keep his job so he can feed his family. (And sing to his customers.) Yet in spite of all these sobering plot points, a lighthearted and carefree air is suffused into this show, as if someone left the back door open and let a breeze carry in the scent of blossoms. There are many wry, thoughtful and whimsical moments in the show, and those overwhelm the “serious” parts.


Related story: He loves ‘She Loves Me,’ which is why Roger Christensen can’t stop singing

Eis for Emily. As in Emily Pessano, who is lovely as Amalia. She has the right growl when bantering with George, her comic timing is period perfect — can’t you just see Pessano glamming it up through the 1930s? — and her romantic chemistry first-rate.

Lis for Lyrics. As in lyrics by Sheldon Hartnick and music by Jerry Bock, who wrote this show before their big claim to fame, “Fiddler on the Roof.” There are so many delightful songs in this show; from the opening number “Good Morning, Good Day” and the amusing “No More Candy” to the plaintive “Will He Like Me?” You even get the fun “Twelve Days to Christmas,” which helps set the mood for the Yuletide theme at the end of the show. And, of course, there is the memorable story song “Vanilla Ice Cream,” which you’ll probably recognize even if you don’t know the show.

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O is for OK. As in OK, I’ll break down at this point and remind you. “She Loves Me” inspired the 1998 movie “You’ve Got Mail.” I hesitate sometimes to play this card when I’m talking up the show because 1) “She Loves Me” came first and is better than “You’ve Got Mail,” and 2) I don’t like to name drop. But the fact remains that as a recruiting tool into the world of “She Loves Me” devotees, the “You’ve Got Mail” connection is a strong and easy selling point.

Vis for Versatile. As in David Pierce’s versatile storefront scenic design, which folds in and out to create the parfumerie and other attractive period locations. While I’m at it, I have to mention Ginger Kay Lewis Reed’s period costumes, Joielle Adams and Andrea Henrickson’s lighting design and Marc Gonzalez and Steve Souza’s whimsical choreography.

Eis for Ensemble. As in there’s a lot of talent assembled on the small 2nd Space stage, and the camaraderie is apparent. Though the Amalia-George love story is central, the supporting characters are just as important. Marks, Martin, Marsh and Christensen are all appealing. I’m a particular fan of Fidalgo, whose ladies-man character of Steven brings some bite to all that sweetness on stage. His bitter rendition of “Grand Knowing You” is a standout.

Good Company Players

Michael Fidalgo and Kaley Marsh hit the dance floor in ‘She Loves Me.’

Sis for Service. As in the customer service provided to the customers of Maraczek’s. (Emma DenBesten, Jacquie Broach, Jessica Martin and Yaya Simpson are mellifluous as a quartet of busy shoppers). Not only do they get lots of personal attention as they shop for soaps, perfumes, hand creams, etc., they also get a goodbye ditty sung to them each time they leave the store:

Thank you, madam.
Please call again.
Do call again,
Madam.

Can you imagine if the Best Buy security dude sang that to you on the way out the door?

Mis for Maldonado. As in Teddy Maldonado. As George, he gets to be a little gruff, a little romantic and a lot of nice. His version of the title song is a happy moment in a happy play.

Eis for Elizabeth, As in Elizabeth Fiester. She directs the show like a true “She Loves Me” fan. Is this romantic little gem filled with hip dance moves, insider references to contemporary pop culture and internet-friendly allusions? No way. We’re talking about a plot that hinges on written letters, after all, not swiping right or left. But that slower-tech sensibility and the feeling that we’re floating through an earlier, more gracious, time is a lot of the charm. “She Loves Me” reminds us that if you’re looking for eHarmony in your love life, old-fashioned communication might get you the most clicks of all.


Show info

‘She Loves Me,’ 2nd Space Theatre. Continues through Dec. 22. Tickets are $20, $18 seniors and students.

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Covering the arts online in the central San Joaquin Valley and beyond. Lover of theater, classical music, visual arts, the literary arts and all creative endeavors. Former Fresno Bee arts critic and columnist. Graduate of Columbia University and Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. Excited to be exploring the new world of arts journalism.

donaldfresnoarts@gmail.com

Comments (1)

  • Karan Johnson

    As a long-time devotee of She Loves Me, I was thrilled that this production was as charming and sweet as I hoped it would be. Emily Pessano and Teddy Maldonado are perfection in this confection. (See what I did there?)

    reply

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