NEW LEBANON -- Between their hit musicals “Fiorello!” and “Fiddler on the Roof,” the songwriting team of Sheldon Harnick and Jerry Bock wrote “She Loves Me,” a 1937 love story by Miklos Laszlo, adapted by Joe Masteroff. It’s a charmer, and the superb cast at The Theater Barn squeezes every ounce of musical delight from it as possible.
And now I know where Kelly Shook is. Kelly and sister Karla anchored many splendid productions at Mac-Haydn Theatre in Chatham, and then moved on. But here Kelly is a few miles away, directing and choreographing with aplomb, bringing to life this story of Georg (Patrick Scholl) and Amalia (Alexandra Foley), two clerks in a parfumerie who, in real life, don’t especially like each other, but who, unbeknownst to them, are writing anonymous love letters to each other.
“Dear friend” is the salutation they use in correspondence that tells of their interests, talents and hopes for the future. By the end of Act 1, they’ve made plans to meet for the first time, but because there’s an Act 2, we know it will be a while before all ends well.
While they are trying to sort out their issues, colleagues at the shop are wrestling with theirs. Mr. Maraczek (John Trainor) is worried about his wife’s fidelity; co-workers and paramours Ilona (Alexa Renee) and Steven (Travis C. Brown) fight, kiss and make up, and fight some more; Ladislav (Allen E. Phelps) tries not to rock the boat so he can hold onto his job, breadwinner for a large family that he is; and Arpad (Ali Louis Bourzgui), the eager young messenger, is striving to rise through the ranks of employees.
With a score of over 20 songs, none reprised and each of which fits hand-in-glove with the dramatic moment that inspires it, the show provides plenty of opportunities for the actors to prove their musical mettle, and these splendid performers do just that. In tandem with band director Ollie Townsend and drummer Mike Lucchetti and bassist Robin Tucksmith, they capture the fun (Renee on “A Trip to the Library” and Foley on “Vanilla Ice Cream”), pathos (Trainor on “Days Gone By” and Phelps on “Perspective”), and youthful exuberance (the stellar Bourzgui on “Try Me” and Scholl on “She Loves Me”) that characterize the story-telling.
Brown as the snaky charmer Kodaly slithers through “Ilona” and “Grand Knowing You,” and the ensemble, led by an amusing Levi Squire, makes “A Romantic Atmosphere” sparkle.
A special nod to stars Scholl and Foley, who make credible every thrust and parry of these two lovebirds. Amalia is vulnerable, but not weak. Georg is a bit weak, but when he realizes that she loves him, he unabashedly reveals his vulnerability. Fine work by both.
Anthony Martin’s set is colorful and functional; David Louder’s costumes evoke the 1930s; and Karissa Monson’s lighting design is, so to speak, spot-on.
Phelps mentioned in his curtain speech that most -- if not all -- of the cast will be around for the theater’s next production, “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee.” It ought to be good.
'She Loves Me'
WHERE: The Theater Barn, 654 Route 20, New Lebanon
WHEN: Through Aug. 19
HOW MUCH: $29-$27
MORE INFO: 518-794-8989, or theaterbarn.com