If Sheldon Harnick and Jerry Bock wrote the lyrics and music, it's got to be good.
That's what Capital Repertory Theatre Musical Director Josh D. Smith thought about the 1963 musical "She Loves Me," and he wasn't disappointed. The Capital Rep production begins with a premiere Friday night, then opens Tuesday and runs through Dec. 24.
"Those guys composed the music for 'Fiddler,' and that's my favorite Broadway musical," said Smith, referring to the tandem's huge 1964 success "Fiddler on the Roof." "I didn't really know that much about the show, but when we were looking over our options for the holidays I did notice it was set in the holidays. Then, once I listened to it and went through the musical score, I just fell in love with it."
The story is based on the 1937 play "Parfumerie" by Hungarian playwright Miklos Laszlo, and along with "She Loves Me" spawned some huge film successes, including "The Shop Around the Corner" (Jimmy Stewart and Margaret Sullivan, 1940), "In the Good Old Summertime" (Judy Garland and Van Johnson, 1949) and "You've Got Mail" (Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan, 1998). In the original, the two romantic leads in the show (the story has been slightly altered in every remake) are shop employees who are secretly nameless pen pals but constantly at odds with each other while at work. The book for the Broadway version was written by Joe Masteroff.
"It's a great story, and I don't know why it wasn't one of the great Broadway classics like 'Fiddler,'" said Smith. "But it's still around and it was revived on Broadway in 2016. People will recognize the title song - I think Steve Lawrence sang it when the show came out - and the entire score is charming."
The Cap Rep production is being directed by Maggie Mancinelli-Cahill, artistic director at Capital Rep, while Broadway performer Michael McCorry Rose ("A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder" and "Wicked") is the male lead and Julia Borrows the female lead. Also a part of the cast is Smith, who was a vocal major at Syracuse University.
"I've done a lot of musical directing and some acting, and it's always fun when I can do a little of both," said Smith. "I like them both equally. In 'She Loves Me,' I play Mr. Keller, a detective, and I have a scene where I have to tell the shop owner that his wife is having an affair."
Smith has done the three previous holiday shows at Cap Rep ("Camelot," "A Christmas Story" and "Secret Garden"), as well as a handful of other musicals, usually in the summer. He also has a regular gig with the Arizona Broadway Theater in Phoenix and the Woodstock Theatre Festival in Vermont.
"I've loved the musical theater since a very young age," said Smith. "I watched 'The Wizard of Oz' on television and I fell in love with it. I'm very lucky to work as a musical director at Cap Rep, and when I'm done here with 'She Loves Me' I'm heading out to Phoenix to do a production of 'Showboat.' During the fall I'll be at Woodstock. My home base is still New York City, but more often than not I'm at one of my three theater homes."
Two of the Capital Region's busiest actors, Kevin McGuire and David Girard, are also in the cast. McGuire is the founder of the Hubbard Hall Theatre in Cambridge and has performed around the country, including New York and Toronto, while Girard is a longtime Capital Region performer who also manages a brand-new theater troupe, the Troy Foundry Theatre, as well as Saratoga Shakespeare each summer in Saratoga Springs.
"This show has come together beautifully," said Mancinelli-Cahill. "It's such a sweet story and the score is just perfect. The Rep really comes alive when we've got a musical onstage."
Brian Prather is the set designer, Evan Prizant the costume designer and Freddy Ramirez the choreographer.
'She Loves Me'
WHERE: Capital Repertory Theatre, 111 North Pearl St., Albany
WHEN: Premieres Friday, opens Tuesday and runs through Dec. 24; performances are at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday, 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 3 p.m. Sunday
HOW MUCH: $65-$25, $16 for students
MORE INFO: Visit www.capitalrep.org, or call (518) 445-7469
Josh D. Smith's five favorite musicals:
1 - "The Wizard of Oz"
2 - "Fiddler on the Roof"
3 - "Gypsy"
4 - "Mame"
5 - "Showboat"