One of the better stage groups on the South Coast, the Rubicon Theatre Company of Ventura, brings the summer — and its 10th anniversary season — to a close with a production of the lovely and elegant musical She Loves Me, by Joe Masteroff (book), Jerry Bock (music) and Sheldon Harnick (lyrics).
The musical, based on the 1937 play Parfumerie by Hungarian playwright Miklos Laszlo, opened on Broadway in 1963 and ran for 302 performances.
Before that, in 1940, Parfumerie had been made into a successful motion picture, The Shop around the Corner with James Stewart and Margaret Sullivan, and, in 1949, a totally different musical version, starring Judy Garland and Van Johnson, In the Good Old Summertime.
The play, significantly updated and revised, was the skeleton for the 1998 Tom Hanks–Meg Ryan vehicle You’ve Got Mail. (Interestingly, Liliom, one of the most famous plays of another Hungarian playwright, Ferenc Molnar, had been turned into the U.S. musical Carousel — perhaps its great success was the inspiration for She Loves Me, as Parfumerie probably had been inspired by Molnar’s 1916 play Fashions for Men, also set in a clothing and accessory shop.
She Loves Me is a delightful romantic comedy from the same creative team that brought you Fiddler on the Roof. Set in Budapest in the 1930s, it concerns two intensely competitive co-workers who unwittingly become pen pals through a “lonely hearts” column. It is best described as a chamber musical, since there are no huge production numbers — a la Rogers and Hammerstein — involving 500 singers and dancers. The music and lyrics perfectly complement the witty romantic nostalgia of the play, and don’t be surprised if you leave humming a melody.
In addition to all of its undeniable charms, She Loves Me is one of the first appearances in U.S. culture of what is now a staple of TV situation comedies, the “work family” — that is, the characters are more involved with the people they work with than with whoever is waiting for them at home.
The Rubicon production is directed by Kirby Ward, with musical direction by Lloyd Cooper. Scenic designer is Tom Giamario, lighting designer is Christina Munich and the costume designer is Shon LeBlanc. She Loves Me stars Kevin Symons, Kim Huber, George Ball, Larry Cahn, Rick Cornette, Leslie Henstock, Nathan Holland, Matthew Rocheleau, Jamison Stern and Beverly Ward.
She Loves Me opens Thursday and runs through Sept. 28 at the Rubicon, 1006 E. Main St. For tickets, call the box office at 805.667.2900.
Gerald Carpenter covers the arts as a Noozhawk contributor.