A Sweet Smell Of Success In Marine City

By John Quinn

Although it turned 50 in April, you may not have heard of the musical "She Loves Me." Unless you've been living under a Petoskey stone, you probably have heard of another little musical by the creative team of Sheldon Harnick and Jerry Bock, "Fiddler on the Roof." Although filled with sweet tunes, the score for "She Loves Me" has no blockbuster hits, although the title song is a favorite among tenors showing off in musical revues. A simple story about a complicated romance, "She Loves Me" closes the first season of The Snug Theatre in Marine City.

"She Loves Me" is an adaptation of Hungarian playwright Miklos Laszlo's "Illatszertar," commonly translated as "Parfumerie." The plot, at least, might be familiar: It was adapted for Ernst Lubitsch's superb 1940 film, "The Shop around the Corner," and was adapted again, in updated form, for "You've Got Mail."

The scene is Budapest, sometime in the '30s. Georg Nowack, the painfully shy manager of Maraczek's Parfumerie, has answered an ad in a lonely hearts column and is carrying on a torrid relationship, via the post office, with a lady he knows only as "Dear Friend." But this method of wooing has all the pitfalls of Craigslist: Just with whom are you corresponding?

In Georg's case, "Dear Friend" turns out to be Amalia Balash, who, coincidentally, barged into the shop one day looking for a job. No matter how poetic their written romance, the clueless couple can't seem to get along. Georg arrives late at what was to be their first face-to-face and discovers Amalia's identity. Embarrassed, he steals away. Can the shy retail clerk get his head on straight in time for a happy ending? It's musical theater, folks, of course he can!

"She Loves Me" is directed by Nancy Arnfield; the orchestra is under the direction of Paul Decker. They've assembled a cast of unusually strong singers who are unfazed by what is really a challenging score. Aaron Dennis Smith and Nancy Ingles, appearing as Georg and Amalia, are well matched vocally, and their duets are attractive. But the talent doesn't stop at the top; The Snug boasts a deep bench, vocal-wise. Emily Kline and Matthew Berdahl portray two of the shop's sales staff. Each is gifted with a powerful voice and a wry sense of comedy, bringing a sharp edge to the musical's subplots.

A fair number of theaters are accepting the musical challenge this season. This critic is familiar with many of the offerings, less so with some. "She Loves Me" falls in the latter category, so catching this production was akin to unwrapping the mystery gift under the Christmas tree.


'She Loves Me'

The Snug Theatre, 160 S. Water St., Marine City. 7 p.m. Friday-Saturday and 3 p.m. Sunday through Dec. 21. 2 hours, 40 minutes. $20. 810-278-1749. http://www.thesnugtheatre.com

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