A good show overall, but with a few issues prevent it from really standing out.
She Loves Me is set in a Hungarian perfumery in the 1930s where Amalia Balash and Georg Nowack meet, but initially hate each other. They are also both in correspondence with pen pals with whom they both fall in love, only we find out they are writing to each other. The show itself is what I would consider a “classic” musical.
Initially, when the curtains opened, the set gave a really good impression. The pastel and gold wallpaper was absolutely beautiful and helped create a happy and feel-good atmosphere. The production value overall was excellent. Naomi Dixon, Charlie Rowen and Elly Bryant-Frost did a great job at sourcing a large amount of assorted perfume bottles that worked with the overall show aesthetic. I was also really impressed at the relatively quick transitions that never dampened the atmosphere. Costumes were absolutely stunning. They were all coherent both in colour and in time period and suited absolutely every character.
The staging overall was effective: the raise on stage right helped give dimension to each scene and to aid transitions and movement, however I feel like it could have been used more effectively throughout during other songs and scenes. Had there been more use of the stairs, perhaps the more stationary parts of the show would not have been quite so bitty.
The acting quality overall was a bit of a mixed bag, both for the named characters and for the ensemble. The definite standouts of the show were Sipos (Alex Wareham), The Headwaitress (Ella Sabine) and Ilona (Lydia Edge) who had their characters absolutely nailed. Howard-Andrews and Shasha, I felt, were oddly overshadowed by their supporting actors. Shasha’s acting often turned a bit monotone and one note, not really bringing out the comedy that he could have had he had more character work. I definitely believe they both could have had much better performances had they been directed differently. Unfortunately I feel that the majority of mediocre acting could have been completely avoided had there been more character workshops, especially for the ensemble. Kirsty Batson was the exception to the ensemble: her performance of Mrs Baronyai was absolutely spot on and made her small stage time memorable.
Musically, everyone was in tune and in time and was overall of a very good standard. Standout performances included Edge and Wareham as well as John Wilders who played the owner of the shop Mr Maraczek. Howard-Andrews sang to an incredibly high standard, but unfortunately her operatic tone made enunciation really difficult and a lot of what she sang was incomprehensible. I feel that this should have been noticed by the production team, especially in an unconventional space in terms of acoustics such as the Annex.
Choreography overall was a difficult part of this show. The show itself wasn’t dance intensive anyway, but the songs that were choreographed felt basic and under-rehearsed (the snow was probably a large issue). There was a lot of tapping and pointing that unfortunately cheapened the overall effect of the show and added to the lack of movement already present. The dance break during “A Romantic Atmosphere” was absolutely bizarre and completely unjustified. Had there been more build-up then the silliness would be justified but unfortunately it just wasn’t pulled off.
To conclude, the show was enjoyable but was let down by misguided directorial choices and lack of ensemble presence, but on the flip side, it was aesthetically stunning and coherent.