She loves me,
True, she doesn’t show it
How could she,
When she doesn’t know it?
– Jerry Bock, She Loves Me
Earlier this year, the Roundabout Theater Company mounted a wonderful revival of the 1963 musical She Loves Me, with music by Jerry Bock and lyrics by Sheldon Harnick. It is one of many adaptations of the play Parfumerie by Hungarian playwright Miklós László. The play also gave rise to the 1940 movie The Shop Around the Corner (starring Jimmy Stewart and Margaret Sullivan0), the 1949 movie musical In the Good Old Summertime (starring Judy Garland and Van Johnson), and the 1997 movie You’ve Got Mail (starring Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan.) If you have seen any of those, you know the story.
Recently, Suzanne and I were fortunate enough to see a “captured live” performance of the Roundabout production, starring Laura Benanti, Zachary Levi, Jane Krakowski, Gavin Creel, Byron Jennings, and Tom McGowan.
The show mostly takes place at Maraczek’s Parfumerie in Budapest in 1934. It centers around the clerks at Maraczek’s. A woman named Amalia Balasch comes in looking for a job, but the shop’s assistant manager, Georg Nowack tells her there are no openings, but Amalia proceeds to sell a music box that Mr. Maraczek bet could not be sold. She is hired.
As the months go by, Georg and Amalia work together, but develop a chilly animosity. Sipos, an older clerk, tells the young delivery boy that they bicker because they secretly like each other. Both are writing to unknown lovers through a Lonely Hearts Club.
Meanwhile, Ilona Ritter, a thirty-something clerk, has been having an affair with another clerk, the ladies’ man Stephen Kodaly. But Kodaly’s relationship with Ilona turns sour. Kodaly, it seems, has found a new lover.
On the very day that Georg tells Sipos that he will be meeting his “dear friend” that evening, Amalia tells Ilona that she will be meeting hers that night. Mr. Maraczek gets on Georg for some minor things, and he winds up quitting the job. (He winds up getting it back in light of some new information that is presented to Mr. Maraczek.)
You can probably guess what happens when Georg goes to meet his “Dear Friend”. Let’s just say that both of them are quite shocked when they eventually discover each other’s identity, and it changes each character’s day-to-day interactions.
So other than a delightful musical, what does She Loves Me give us? There is one simple point: Sometimes the good that we’re seeking is right in front of us and we can’t even see it. It may be disguised, or we may not be looking at it correctly. But in any case, we need to open our eyes, take a good look, and discard our preconceived notions about people and circumstances. You never know the good that may await.
She Loves Me is a wonderful little gem of a show, and if a production comes your way, it’s definitely worth seeing. You would likely enjoy it very much.