Book by Joe Masteroff
Music by Jerry Bock
Lyrics by Sheldon Harnick
Based on the play Parfumerie by Miklos Laszlo, also adapted into the film The Shop Around The Corner. Adapted twice more into the films The Good Old Summertime, and You’ve Got Mail. (Every incarnation of this delightful tale was a hit.)

INFO:

Opened at the Eugene O’Neill Theater    April 23, 1963    302 performances
Original Director: Harold Prince
Original Choreographer: Carol Haney
Original Producer: Harold Prince, Lawrence N. Kasha, Philip C. McKenna
Original Leads: Georg: Daniel Massey   Amalia: Barbara Cook    Kodaly: Jack Cassidy    Miss Ritter: Barbara Baxley
Cast Size: Male: 5    Female: 2    Ensemble: 4-8    Total Cast Size: Around 14-20
Orchestra: 16, can be done with less, but works best orchestrated.
Published Script: Dodd Mead Out of print
Production Rights: MTI (Music Theater International)
Recordings: The original cast recording is quite good, and was a two album set so most of the score is represented.
Film: None
Other shows by the authors: Tenderloin, Fiddler On The Roof, Fiorello, The Apple Tree, The Rothchilds   Masteroff: Cabaret
Awards: 1964 Tony for Best Supporting Actor (Cassidy).

WHO SHOULD DO THIS SHOW:

A wonderful, entertaining, funny, romantic, and contemporary show. Though the terrific music is mock-Viennese and the period the 1930s in Europe, the sensibility of the tale is as modern as it could be. From the songwriters of “Fiddler On The Roof”, but with a far more complex, and rich score.

It seems to me that this show could be done by more advanced High Schools with strong singing leads. Colleges, stock companies, Little Theaters, semi-pro and professional companies should delight in this show. It is built to be produced at a reasonable size with reasonable demands, and is a sure fire crowd-pleaser. It is a fine showcase for your four principal actors, and good talent should fight to do this show. It will fill up a large stage, and can be done in smaller venues. It can be expanded by adding cast and placing a full orchestra on it, to work in large houses with ease, but easily fits into small houses, too. I think this should be one of the most produced shows out there.

Be Warned:

Um, I don’t know. The music isn’t that hard, though there is a lot of it. Choreographic demands aren’t too daunting, and can be fun.

Let’s see. Why should you not do this? Reproducing beautiful sets and costumes for a large European city circa 1930 might be expensive. But I’ve seen it done in a Little Theater on a partial set with okay costumes and a recorded orchestration (a sin, in my book), and it was still pretty great. I guess, if you don’t have a female soprano who can act and sing up a storm, don’t do this show.

Basically, I pretty much think this is a show that just about any company large enough to do it can do, and probably should do at some time. If there’s anything I could say to dissuade, it might be that this is a polite, gentle, lovable show. It will offend almost no one. It has no violence, no bombs blowing up., no rock songs. As tastes move toward video games and large action movies, this show may pass from interest. I hope not. It won’t speak well for the world.

THE STORY:

ACT ONE: The front of Maraczek’s Parfumerie, in a fashionable corner of a fashionable city in 1930s Europe. The employees gather to sing “Good Morning, Good Day,” and how lovely it would be to have a picnic instead of work. Ah well. As they sing, we see that the store wolf, Kodaly, has spent the night with the store always-falls-for-the-wrong-guy, Miss Ritter. Young Arpad, the delivery boy, dreams of advancement to the sale’s force. Georg, the store manager, enters in fine fettle. And work starts as the boss enters, Mr. Maraczek himself, a genial, mature man. Customers enter and are cared for, and we hear “Sounds While Selling.” They make their purchases and exit to the grateful strains of the employees “Thank You, Madam.”

Sipos, a long-time employee who will do almost anything to keep his job, talks to Georg. Geog, handsome and young, is receiving mystery letters from an unknown woman who signs her letters “Dear Friend.” He longs to know who she is. Mr. Maraczek overhears, and reminisces about before he married, when he was a young stud, in “Days Gone By.” Maraczek asks Georg to move his newest item, a small music box. Georg doesn’t see it’s value. Enter a lovely, vital young woman looking for work, Amalia. She asks Georg if she can meet the owner, but he tells her no. They do not hit it off at all. Maraczek overhears, and she’s all over him for a job, though he tries to retreat. It’s then that a customer looks at the box Maraczek wants to sell. Amalia immediately pretends to be a sale’s person, and (surprised to discover the box makes music, as she was pushing it a a candy box), sings “No More Candy” as her sales pitch. Seems the sweet music is intended to remind the customer to put that candy down. Delighted, the customer buys the box, and Amalia has won a job.

Alone, Georg reads the latest mystery woman’s letter. The days pass, and Amalia and Georg really don’t like each other. So as he reads “Three Letters,” it comes as a shock to the audience that Amalia is the mystery woman, and Georg her mystery man, though neither knows it. In writing they agree to meet “Tonight At Eight”. In the mean time, Amalia speaks to Ritter in the back room where gifts are wrapped. She admits that she’s terrified of the upcoming meeting. (“I Don’t Know His Name”_) Ritter dryly points out to herself that she wishes she’d never met the man who she is seeing and who is ruining her life with his incessant wandering, Kodaly.

Georg’s head is not in his job, and so Maraczek is displeased when the Christmas decorations do not go up on time. The men start to argue, but Sipos intrudes with a staged accident. Georg suspects the man faked it, and Sipos points out that one must retain “Perspective” and one’s job.

Maraczek insists they all stay late, and Georg delivers the unhappy news to Amalia, who is of course desperate to go to her date. She can’t believe that Georg would hate her so much, and they argue as they always do. Maraczek asks who is staying, and Georg says everyone but himself and Amalia. Maraczek is displeased, the men fight, and Georg quits. Amalia is stunned, and they all sing “Goodbyue, Georg” as they serve customers. Alone, Amalia wonders about the night to come, and “Will He Like Me.” In the meantime, Kodaly makes yet another move on Ritter. (“Ilona”) She can’t seem to say no, but he suddenly has another date. She swears someday, she will keep her head and fuse his advances. (“I Resolve”)

Outside the store, Georg begs Sipos to go with him to the cafe’ Imperiale, where he will meet his mystery woman. He’ll know her from a rose she’ll carry, and a copy on Anna Karenina. He will also wear a rose. He begs Sipos to give her a letter explaining why he’s been called out of town. He is terrified. They exit. Alone, Maraczek is approached by a detective who has followed the man’s wife. He reports that she is indeed having an affair. But not with Georg, which Maraczek suspected and which explains his hostility toward his young ex-manager. The affair is with Kodaly. He is stunned at what he’s done and what’s being done to him, and considers suicide. The young delivery boy, Arpad, rushes to stop the man…

At the Cafe’. A waiter, against great odds, works tirelessly to produce “A Romantic Atmosphere”. Georg and Sipos arrive, and Georg places his nearly crushed rose on his lapel. Sipos nearly drags Georg inside…and there’s Amalia, waiting. He sees her and retreats before she spots him, deflated. How can they meet, he asks Sipos. She’ll ridicule him as the fool she hates, who has been writing her all this time. She sees him, wants to know why he’s here, and he claims to be celebrating his freedom from the store. He offers to share a drink with her, but she is waiting for someone. She allows one quick drink. When he does not leave, she gets upset, and the desperate, haughty waiter berates them both. Georg starts to ridicule her, and paints a picture of a lonely girl waiting for an unknown date who is murdered and chopped up, in “The Tango Tragique.” She screams for him to leave, and expresses utter disgust. Alone, she waits, but “Dear Friend” never appears, and the lights fade.

ACT TWO: Maraczek rests, his arm in a sling, as Arpad brings him breakfast. The boy has covered for the man’s suicide attempt, claiming it was an accident. But since he has a captive audience, he begs Maraczek to “Try Me” as a sale’s person. Georg finds Maraczek in this condition, and is truly concerned for him. Maraczek begs Georg to forgive him, and explains. Arpad gets his chance.

Georg goes to Amalia’s apartment to see why she did not show up for work. She’s depressed and ill, but she will not allow him to take any pleasure in it, and demands to go to work, crying out “Where’s My Other Shoe!” He finally stops her feverish tirade by showing her a present he’s brought her, vanilla ice cream. She is shocked, and they actually start to talk. She admits she was at the cafe’ waiting to meet a man, Dear Friend. Georg can’t bear her upset, and makes up a lie. He says that he knows Dear Friend, and the man will write her, that as he left the cafe’ last night, a man followed him whom he spoke to, and who turned out to be Dear Friend. The fictional Dear Friend said he had to leave suddenly on business, but he will return. Of course, claims Georg, he was sort of overweight. And bald. She is quietly dismayed, as she and Georg talk about Anna Karenina, and it becomes clear that they are two kindred souls. When he leaves, she rhapsodizes on this new Georg who brought her “Vanilla Ice Cream.” And alone, he rhapsodizes on the truth he now knows, that “She Loves Me.”

Later, the shop. The employees are ready for Christmas, their busiest season. And Georg recalls that he has a job to do on behalf of Maraczek. He approaches Kodaly, but Ritter tells Sipos she no longer cares for the man. She’s met a smarter, nicer man during “A Trip To The Library,” and is very happy. Arpad announces that he’s now a clerk, to the joy of all there except Kodaly. The wolf who always lands on his feet sings a huge exit, “Grand Knowing You.”

The next day, Christmas approaches. Amalia and Georg greet each other at the shop, and during the “Twelve Days To Christmas,” serve customers at a rapid pace while they fall in love. The store has had a great Christmas. Maraczek throws a small party for his friends and employees. A bachelor now, Maraczek takes Arpad out on the town to celebrate. Alone, Amalia has a present for Dear Friend – one of the boxes. As they talk, it becomes clear to each of them that the other is “Dear Friend.” They are together at last.

THE SONGS:

“Good Morning, Good Day”, “Sounds While Selling”. “Thank You, Madam”,”Days Gone By”, “No More Candy”, “Three Letters”, “Tonight At Eight”, “I Don’t Know His Name”, “Perspective”,”Goodbye, Georg”, “Will He Like Me”, “Ilona”, “I Resolve”, “A Romantic Atmosphere”, Tango Tragique”, “Dear Friend”, “Try Me”, “Where’s My Shoe”, “Vanilla Ice Cream”, “She Loves Me”, “A Trip To The Library”, “Grand Knowing You”, “Twelve Days To Christmas”, “Vanilla Ice Cream (reprise)”

Hits include “Dear Friend”, “Vanilla Ice Cream”, “She Loves Me” (“Will He Like Me” is one of the most beautiful ballads ever written, and “A Romantic Atmosphere” and “Tango Tragique” are two of the funniest. The score is a gem, top to bottom.)

MY OPINIONS:

You can, as always, elect to ignore or skip my opinions and rating.  But if you do, then no more candy, my dear.

I love this show. It’s top drawer writing in every respect, and as wonderful as Fiddler is, an argument could be made that She Loves Me is Bock and Harnick’s masterpiece. Certainly, it contains far more songs, and often of greater complexity, than Fiddler. Is the show as great as Fiddler, no. It doesn’t have the social or sweeping intentions that Fiddler does, nor the deep reach into human nature that gives Fiddler its timeless glow. But She Loves Me is a perfect music box of a musical. That’s what it sets out to be and it succeeds brilliantly. If you’re looking for a romantic musical guaranteed to please an audience and provide your actors a really fun challenge, a show with tons of laughs, beautiful songs with snappy lyrics, and production values that are not too overwhelming, this is the show.

It’s all based on the Hungarian play “Parfumerie.” What a popular piece of source material! It’s easy to see why, the story is romantic, funny, and terrific raw material for actors and adaptation. The “rap” on She Loves Me (when anyone complains, which is rare) is that it feels old-fashioned, like an operetta from the thirties. To which I say nonsense. The songs feel like theater circa the 1960s, well-written and professional, but they have life and fun and joy in them, more than almost any musical written lately. The script is funny, tight, emotional. The show is readily produceable. Audiences love the show, each time I’ve seen a production. It works. (A GREAT Christmas show, by the way.)

MY RATING: ** (An excellent show, well worth considering.)

PRODUCTION CONCERNS AND IDEAS:

DIFFICULTY OF MUSIC:
The score is rich with harmony and vocal counterpoint. It’s fun, but it isn’t very hard to learn. That said, the range for Amalia is operatic. The lyrics need to be heard, and there are many as there are some 20 songs, far more than the average musical. You will need a good pianist/Music Director who is talented with show music, mock-Viennese feels and tangos, and can get a cast of somewhat-singers (because acting is very important, here) to sound very, very good and tight when harmonizing.

By the way, this show has more solos and duets than most shows, and not that much choral. The choral that it does have should be done cleanly, clearly, professionally. But most of an M.D.s time will be spent working with soloists.

Georg – Baritone. Bright quality, emotional, playful. He has a lot of singing, and it all has to be acted well, too. Should sing fairly well.

Amalia – A famous vocal role, soprano with a clear, radiant High B. Must sing very well, opera training a plus.

Kodaly – Lyric Baritone, sophisticated veneer, charm in his voice. Must really sing well, with effortless control.

Ilona – Character alto, comic, fun and funny vocalize. Strong belt helpful.

Maraczek – Lyric Baritone. Clear, clean voice that shows his age.

Sipos – Comic baritone. Acting more important than singing, though he has one great song.

Arpad – Tenor, youngish voice, clear, clean, energetic.

The Waiter – Tenor, entirely comic and over the top Viennese, overly emotional, clear, strong voice required.

DIFFICULTY OF DANCE, CHOREOGRAPHIC CONCERNS:

A good choreographer who knows how to pull movement not just from the music but from the character’s inner life and travails will be very useful. There are numbers that require some movement, particularly “Romantic Atmosphere,” which uses a Cafe’ setting and lots of people, as many as you can double and place on the stage, and should go wild when the ethnic violin sounds its romantic, mournful cry, wild with love, wild with old school passion. This is the number a choreographer should want to do.

Other group numbers that could benefit from the touch of a Choreographer who knows how to add to the mood instead of simply show off his moves are “Good Morning, Good Day,” “Sounds While Selling”, “Tango Tragique” (which might involve others listening in, to add to the comic effect…), and “Twelve Days To Christmas.” These are group numbers, but they do not call for dance so much as musical movement. Solos and duets should really be staged by the director, and always with the vocal requirements in mind. These actors need to sing a lot, they cannot also dance around a lot.

CASTING CONCERNS:

Georg – Young adult, energetic, bright, overly emotional, somewhat petty but likeable, and romantic.  Generally because of the period and location, and the idea that they work at Maraczek’s, casting should be Euro-Caucasian.  But some experimenting in this may be possible.

Amalia – Young adult, aggressive, judgmental, overly emotional, somewhat petty but likeable, and romantic.

Kodaly – Slimy, oily, but with polish. In his thirties-forties, experienced, worldly, voracious, self-involved.

Ilona – Thirty-ish, sort of hot but too easy a mark for men, driven by her hungers and not by her intelligence.

Maraczek – 60s, a dumpling of a man, overly emotional though he likes to think of himself as rational and in-control.

Sipos – 40s, a company man for life, always anxious., woks to main invisible in many ways. A strongly comic role when cast well.

Arpad – Young boy-man, bright, aggressive, anxious, eager, good-hearted.

The Waiter – A man, experienced in the ways of the world, overly intense, almost a cartoon of romance. Slick his hair, give him a mustache and heavy eyebrows. He does not need to play violin, he can mime it. But if he can play, well…

Ensemble – Period faces and bodies of a type of middle class shopper and romantic restaurant frequenter. Probably more women than men, though you can use the Waiter to double in earlier scenes than the cafe’.

SETS:

These are important, and will take some work unless you go with a unit set and a simple concept. Done traditionally, the shop has a front door, it opens into the shop which is really laid out with merchandise. It should look period, and European.

However, I’d go with partial and suggestive pieces of furniture and walls, and would probably avoid literal sets as being too expensive, for most groups not rolling in cash. We do spend a lot of the show in the shop, and that should probably be the most developed set – or the one used to establish visual conventions which you plan to use throughout. It’s the first and toughest set. If going to a unit approach, set it up with roll-in display cases and such, that perhaps can be turned around to show some other set piece you’ll need for other locations.

The Cafe’ is the next most important set. It should be cheap-grand. Hanging plants could drop from the ceiling, and perhaps a chandelier. Small tables and chairs might even be danced on and later, off, by the cast of lovers meeting clandestinely in this cafe’. In this way, the change can be choreographed to not slow action, to be fun and even funny, and to immediately establish the mood of the place as way too romantic. This is a place your choreographer and set designer might work together. It is the show’s biggest Act One number.

Similarly in Act Two, “Twelve Days To Christmas” should have sets that show shelves emptying in the shop, filling, emptying, and will need to be coordinated with the choreographer again.

Amalia’s apartment should be small, boxy, inexpensive. A bed, a table, just a suggestion of relative simplicity. There should be romantic books, though, perhaps many of them. And fresh flowers, an indulgence to make her life more bearable.

Most important with all the sets – get the period and the mood right. This is 1930s Europe, big city. That is a specific set of looks, do some research. And keep things bubbly, fun, imaginative and romantic. You could get very creative and bury the image of hearts in every set, or something like hat, and let the audience find them. Big hearts, small hearts, different colors. A broken heart as a p[art of Amalia’s apartment? Could be great fun.

COSTUMES:

Again, this is period 1930s Europe, big city, and these people must look good and professional and in style. Look at movies from the period, especially European films, they might give you some nice ideas. But this will be a fairly easy show to costume given its period, as these are not wealthy people, but working stiffs of the period, except Maraczek, who should have a very nice suit and a pocket watch, etc.

Georg and Ilona must be fated to be together, and something in their costuming might subtly imply this. It could be a curve they share at the neck, or a color scheme from scene to scene that gradually unites until it becomes obvious. Have fun with this, and make sure these two actors have appealing if simple and inexpensive period clothes.

Ilona should work to emphasize her figure, and wear appropriate shoes. Kodaly should be dressed above his pay grade, and we should wonder where he got his money from. He should be a bit too flashy, too eye-candy.

Sipos is straight working man, simple dark suit, fitted poorly, off the rack. Arpad is a delivery boy with a bike, but tries in his poor way to dress like a clerk. Find the character in the costume.

PROPS:

Arpad needs a period bike. The shop is FULL of bottles, boxes, perfumes, you name it! That is a BIG job. Things get gift wrapped for Christmas. The Cafe’ is filled with glasses, menus, plates. Waiters need trays and towels draped on their arms. Amalia needs shoes to lose. Georg needs a bag with ice cream in it, from the period. A copy of Anna Karenina that looks period. Roses for the two leads, and flowers for Amalia’s apartment. There’s more. This is a big job! This show uses more props than most shows. You’ll need to start early, but most of your job will be shopping, or looking through a prop shop. Not much should need to be built.

LIGHTING:

Keep it bright, fun, like a European operetta. Spotlight solos like “Grand Knowing You,” and follow Kodaly right out the door. (If possible, I’d dance him up the center aisle in the house, and out, throwing kisses to the ladies in the audience, maybe even kissing a hand or two as he goes.) Keep things well lit, make the lovers look pretty. There are a few “mood” numbers, like “Will He Like Me,” but really, this isn’t a hard show to light, not for a musical.

MAKE-UP:

Keep it discreet, life-like, in period. Don’t let this get complicated.

KEY PERSONNEL (The ones you MUST get right.):

Director, Music Director, Set Designer, Costume Designer, Prop Master, Amalia, Georg, Kodaly, Ilona.

MY THOUGHTS:

I believe this is a wonderful show that is in danger of being forgotten to some extent. It has always had a difficult time being taken seriously by critics, and they have not helped the public or theater community discover what is surely one of the most entertaining, delightful and charming of all musicals. The show has been carefully written. There is little “fat” in it, or cutable material. It’s an entirely professional show, and helps its producer and director enormously.

But it is a show that requires the details be gotten right. Sets, props, choreography, acting, staging all need to really work together to paint a romantic picture of days gone by, while at the same time never indulging in camp. The show is NOT camp, and you will need to avoid the temptation. The closest it will get to camp is “Days Gone By”, and “Romantic Atmosphere,” and these should be played for their legitimate dramatic and comic character values rather than as a lampoon of times gone.

By the way, if you are uncomfortable with overtly romantic tales, the comedy in this show should save it for you. It’s very funny.