SHE LOVES ME is based on the film “The Shop Around The Corner” which was also the inspiration for Nora Ephron’s “You’ve Got Mail.” Although I can watch “..Mail” endlessly and feel the same flood of joy every time Meg Ryan says “I was hoping it was you,” I can barely stomach the treacly musical SHE LOVES ME. This may be due to my intimate knowledge of the show. I was Head of Properties at Playwrights Horizons in 1980 when we did SHE LOVES ME in their Queens satellite theater. Back then, after multiple viewings, I said “how can Amalia be so stupid as to take what Georg says at face value and how can Georg be so wishy-washy about everything! Plus the first 1/4 of the show is just quaint, old-fashioned blandness.”
My opinion has not mellowed with age. The score is split between Hungarian melodies and unabashed 1960’s show tunes and I find the clash of these warring elements peculiarly unsettling. It’s the same with the book; one minute we are bound by customs and propriety, the next we are all about sex. I was hoping this production would use these opposing poles to create something with a new attitude that might give them a reason for being in the same show. Instead, we get a blind eye on the problems, the jokes are punched up, the romance oversold and the result gave me a sugar headache.
Don’t blame the cast. They are wonderful, each one of them shines. The set is gorgeous, the costumes divine. If you have a higher tolerance for cloying sap than I, you will love this show.