Friday, July 01, 2016

She Loves Me: Live Stream from Broadway

She Loves Me! was streamed live last night, from Broadway, to my laptop. The audience was cheering up there at Studio 54; down here on my screened-in deck north of Atlanta, we had crickets, real crickets, but I burst into applause myself.   Thanks,

[Photo collage (clockwise from upper left): Laura Benanti as "Amalia," Zachary Levi as "Georg," Jane Krakowski as "Ilona," and Gavin Kreel as "Kodaly"]

She Loves Me, with book by Joe Masteroff, music by Jerry Bock, lyrics by Sheldon Harnick, was originally directed in 1963 by Harold Prince.  Since then, as if by law, everyone must use the words "charming" and "jewel box of a musical" to describe it, and must express regret that it got lost among brassier and more epic shows of its time, including something by Bock and Harnick the next year called Fiddler on the Roof.  Duly noted.

These days, it's also necessary to mention that the plot has been borrowed many times, most recently for the film You've Got Mail.  Two intelligent single people,  anonymously engaged in passionate correspondence through a newspaper "lonely hearts" ad,  set up a date to meet, each afraid of disappointment.  The woman, "Amalia," sings...

Will he like the girl he sees?

If he doesn't, will he know enough to know

That there's more to me than I may always show?

Will he like me?

Will he know that there's a world of love

Waiting to warm him?

How I'm hoping that his eyes and ears

Won't misinform him.   ("Will He Like Me?" from She Loves Me)
Unknown to Amalia, "he" is her co-worker "Georg," with whom she shares healthy mutual animus. No spoiler alert needed, here:  Very early in the play, one of the other clerks at the parfumerie observes that the two of them are very attracted to each other; they just don't know it, yet.  Complications ensue, including a subplot featuring flirty Ilona and her suave cad of a lover Kodaly.  The end is never in doubt, but we all enjoy Amalia's shock when she sings, "Right before my eyes, / A man that I despise / Has turned into a man I like!"

The set for this show was mostly the parfumerie where all the characters are employed, which opened up like a jewel box indeed, set in the center of a town in Hungary, early twentieth century.  The gentle pastel colors fit the gentleness of the story.

"Fit" is key, here.  Performed live, there's this miracle of precision-for-purpose that excites in the way that qualifies certain moments in sports as "legendary", only these performers have to do it every night!  Zachary Levi as "Georg," singing, "She loves me!" loses his hat when he cartwheels, then kicks it up into his hand on the last beat of the rhyming last word of the song: What a risky move, but it nails this moment of exuberant emotion, and it earns a payoff in warmth and appreciation from us.  The show crackles with moments like this that fall into place with the naturalness of Sheldon Harnick's rhymes.

Films of musicals can't be this good:  musicals' charm and power derive from the synergy of all its components clicking together.  There must be that element of risk and that warm interaction between audience and performer.   Here's hoping that this Broadway - in - HD program will take off the way the Metropolitan Opera's HD-live series has done for the past ten years, to widen the appeal of this great art form world-wide. 

[By coincidence, I've just read the memoir by Barbara Cook, who originated the role of "Amalia," and who introduced me to the songs "Will He Like Me?" "Dear Friend," and "Ice Cream" during her 1975 comeback concert at Carnegie Hall.  Read "Deep Diva," my impressions of her book.]

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