As Shakespeare’s Puck says, “The course of true love never did run smooth.”
Which makes for good theater, both comedy and tragedy.
It’s comedy at Capital Rep, in every way a stunning production of “She Loves Me,” the musical confection of a play by Hungarian author Miklos Laszlo. The plot explores the bumpy relationship between shop clerks George (Michael McCorry Rose) and Amalia (Julia Burrows), two romantics who correspond with unseen sweethearts, waiting for the right moment to meet the “dear friend.” Of course, the bickering George and Amalia are, in fact, each other’s correspondent. Ah, dramatic irony.
The rough course of love is also evident in the marriage of the shop’s owner, Mr. Maraczek (Kevin McGuire); the on-again-off-again romance of clerks Ilona (Tracy Jai Edwards) and Steven (David Girard); and the harried life of clerk Ladislav (Marc de la Concha), a practical man who must keep his job to support his wife and kids.
It’s to the credit of director Maggie Mancinelli-Cahill (but what isn’t to her credit in a staging that sails through an 83-minute first act that never seems that long?) that, after all of the hijinks, she reserves the evening’s loveliest moment for the last scene. Tears will come.
Sheldon Harnick & Jerry Bock, who gave us “Fiorello!” and “Fiddler on the Roof,” have written songs that grow almost imperceptibly from conversation.
Except for a couple of pieces, none is a stand-alone number, but each is a gem in the show’s context. They have fun with the waltz, an apt meter for Maraczek’s “Days Gone By,” poignantly delivered by McGuire. Sometimes a single song goes in different musical directions, like “A Trip to the Library,” a triumph for Edwards, the evening’s clown princess. Song as character revealer? Listen to Girard’s snarky take on “Grand Knowing You.” And how about a simple show-stopper, one whose tongue twists leave the audience as breathless as the performer? de la Concha’s amusing rendition of “Perspective” and Jimmy Bain’s (as Arpad) buoyant treatment of “Try Me” do, indeed, stop the show.
Elsewhere, the sharp work of the ensemble and the amusing performances of Joshua DeMarco and Adam B. Shapiro keep proceedings zipping along.
The cast (handsomely dressed by Evan Prizant) has been trained to a fare-thee-well by musical director Josh D. Smith (kudos, also, to the pit band) and choreographer Freddy Ramirez, and they move the set pieces (design by Brian Prather) with ease.
I could hear echoes of Barbara Cook, who originated the role of Amalia in 1963, in Burrows’ delivery: occasionally operatic, always pitch-perfect, and precisely enunciated. “Vanilla Ice Cream” is Amalia’s epiphany, whose subtleties Burrows mines as convincingly as she does everything else. Like Helena in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” Amalia believes, with noble conviction, that “love looks not with the eyes, but with the mind.”
Truth be told, however, she’s delighted to discover that George is easy on the eyes. Rose is splendid throughout as the male counterpart to Amalia — vulnerable, hopeful, cautious, smart, and determined — but he’s simply brilliant in “She Loves Me,” George’s ecstatic epiphany that pulls together all of the young man’s disparate feelings.
An Esterhazy torte of a show!
‘She Loves Me’
WHERE: Capital Repertory Theater, 111 N. Pearl St., Albany
WHEN: Through Dec. 24
HOW MUCH: $65-$25
MORE INFO: 518-445-7469, or capitalrep.org