Review: She Loves Me, Landor Theatre

“Still I’m incandescent
Like an adolescent”

There’s always something difficult about seeing a show after the notices have come in, especially when I’m going to be writing about it myself. The interconnectedness of Twitter and the blog means that it is nigh on impossible to ignore the chatter about something especially six days later (press night was on Monday, I went in on the Sunday after) and when Shenton himself devotes a whole blog to his love for a particular show, you have to think there’s something there. All that said, I really wasn’t a fan of She Loves Me. At all. And I’m struggling to see what people saw in both play and production.

The story may well be familiar to you – Joe Masterhoff’s book is based on the play Parfumerie by Miklos Lazslo and has been variously adapted into The Shop Around The Corner and the rom-com film You’ve Got Mail. Co-workers Amalia and Georg fall in hate at first sight as they struggle to work together when she gets a job at the perfume shop where he’s manager but little do they know that the lonely hearts club to which they both subscribe and through which they’ve each found a letter-writing love, has already brought them together.

And that really is about it, there’s minor subplots here and there, and a whole lot of fussing about with montages in which things are sold in the shop (an effective design from David Shields), but they account for little of real import and so the whole story feels as substantial as a cloud of candy floss. It’s sweet enough to be sure, overbearingly so at times, and Charlotte Jaconelli and John Sandberg both sing well as the lovelorn literary lovers but they fail to nail a convincing progression of their relationship – they do sparky antagonism well but the heartfelt, anticipatory revelation of their true love that ought to play out in the second act never comes.

Without full engagement in this key, solitary, story of note, the show thus lost me. Jerry Bock’s music and Sheldon Harnick’s lyrics (so effective in Fiddler on the Roof) miss the mark here with the blandest of scores that bleeds into one unchanging , unmemorable level. Even with Sandberg giving it all he’s got in the title track, I couldn’t have hummed you the tune two minutes after it had finished. The diversion into the bizarrest café (or was it a brothel…) for the Act 1 closer is entirely at odds with the show and wouldn’t be at all missed if it were cut, Ian Dring’s Emcee-inspired Maître D’ a bit of a misjudgement.

So there you have it, Robert McWhir’s production a disappointment for me (David Herzog’s Ladislav a rare highlight though a much underwritten character) but clearly not for many other critics. The somewhat lukewarm reception from this matinée audience suggests the truth may lie somewhere inbetween but it remains fascinating (to me at least) that I’m out of step with so many. 

Running time: 2 hours 30 minutes (with interval)
Booking until 7th March

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