The enchanting musical romantic comedy, "She Loves Me," with all the grace and spirit that established it as one of the all-time great Broadway classics, will begin Westport Country Playhouse's 80th anniversary season runs through May 8. Featuring an alluring musical score and delightful lyrics by the Tony Award-winning team who created "Fiddler on the Roof," the production will be directed by Mark Lamos, Playhouse artistic director.
The endearingly sweet plot involves Georg and Amalia, feuding shop clerks in a 1930s Budapest parfumerie, who unknowingly fall in love via their letters as anonymous romantic pen pals. Surrounded by a roster of eccentric colleagues who aid and abet them, the two soul mates put on a brave front to cover their frailties while longing for their happy ending. The show was the inspiration for the Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan film, "You've Got Mail."
Based on the 1937 Hungarian play "Parfumerie" by Miklos Laszlo, the book is by Joe Masteroff, who won a Tony Award for "Cabaret." Music is by Jerry Bock and lyrics by Sheldon Harnick, who as a team wrote "Fiorello!," winner of Broadway's triple crown: Tony Award, New York Critics' Circle Award and Pulitzer Prize for drama; and "Fiddler on the Roof," which won nine Tony Awards, including Best Musical.
"I fell in love with ‘She Loves Me' as a kid, and I've always wished for the opportunity to direct it," said Lamos. "The music is gorgeous, the lyrics subtle, delicate and revealing of character. We're made to care deeply about the people and events on stage. It has all the hallmarks of a classic. With Masteroff, Bock and Harnick we're in the hands of masters. There's just no questioning that this is one of the all-time great works of the American musical theater.
"I'm honored to have this brilliant creative team of Masteroff, Bock and Harnick as our guests at our Sunday Symposium on April 25," added Lamos. "In conversation with our Associate Artistic Director David Kennedy, these three talents will reflect on how they made musical history with their many Broadway successes."
"She Loves Me" opened on Broadway in 1963 starring Barbara Cook, and won a Tony Award for Jack Cassidy as Best Supporting Actor in the role of Kodaly. The New York Times called the musical "a bonbon of a musical." The winner of Variety's poll of critics as Best Musical, a Broadway revival was produced in 1993.
The exquisite score includes the showstopper, "Ice Cream," the heart-wrenching first act finale, "Dear Friend," the powerhouse, "Twelve Days to Christmas" and the lilting, infectious title tune, "She Loves Me."
Cast members are Jeremy Peter Johnson as Georg (Off-Broadway's "Before the Dawn" and "Shakespeare's R&J"); Jessica Grové as Amalia (Broadway's "Sunday in the Park with George," "Thoroughly Modern Millie," "Les Misérables" and "The Wizard of Oz"); Nancy Anderson as Ilona Ritter (Broadway's "Wonderful Town" and "A Class Act"); Douglas Sills as Steven Kodaly (Broadway's "Little Shop of Horrors" and "The Scarlet Pimpernel," for which he received Tony Award and Drama Desk Award nominations); Michael McCormick as Ladislav Sipos (Broadway's "Curtains," "The Pajama Game," "1776" and Sam Mendes' "Gypsy"); Lenny Wolpe as Mr. Maraczek (Broadway's "Wicked, "The Drowsy Chaperone," "The Sound of Music" and "Mayor"); and Christopher Shin as Arpad Laszlo (regional theater's "The Producers" and "Hello, Dolly!"); and David Bonanno as Head Waiter/Keller ("Great Performances: Live from Lincoln Center").
Ensemble players are Alison Cimmet (Broadway's "A Tale of Two Cities"); Aaron Galligan-Stierle (Broadway's "Ragtime" and "How the Grinch Stole Christmas"); Jenny Latimer (regional theater's "Phantom," "My Fair Lady" and "The Fantasticks"); Robin Lounsbury (regional theater's "Guys & Dolls" and "Beauty and the Beast"); and Sam Pinkleton (regional theater's "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum" and "Cabaret").
Director Mark Lamos is a director of plays, musicals and opera. Named Westport Country Playhouse artistic director in early 2009, his first official season of artistic programming is for this year's 80th anniversary. Lamos spent 17 seasons as artistic director of Connecticut's Hartford Stage, for which he accepted the Tony Award in 1989. He made his Broadway directing debut with a transfer from Hartford Stage of "Our Country's Good," for which he received a Tony Award nomination as Best Director.
The production and design team includes Wayne Barker, music director (Chicago City Limits); Jonathan Butterell, choreographer (Broadway's "The Light in the Piazza," "Assassins," "Nine," "Fiddler on the Roof"); Riccardo Hernandez, scenic design (Broadway's "Caroline, or Change," "Bells Are Ringing"); Candice Donnelly, costume design (Broadway's "Our Country's Good," "Fences," "Hughie"); Rui Rita, lighting design (Broadway's "Present Laughter," "Dividing the Estate," "Enchanted April," "The Price,"); Domonic Sack, sound design (New York Philharmonic's "My Fair Lady" and "Camelot"); Janet Foster, casting; and Matthew Melchoirre, stage manager.
Corporate sponsor is Bank of America. Board of trustees sponsors are Sandra and Neil DeFeo. 2010 80th Season sponsor is Sun Products Corporation. 2010 media sponsor is Moffly Media.
The performance schedule is Tuesday at 8 p.m., Wednesday at 2 and 8 p.m., Thursday and Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 4 and 8 p.m. and Sunday at 3 p.m. Special series feature A Taste of Tuesdays, Previews, Opening Nights, Thursday TalkBack, Sunday Symposium and Backstage Pass.
Single tickets range from $35 to $55; opening night tickets, including post-performance reception, are $65. Students and educators are eligible for 50% discounts. Groups of 10 or more save up to 30%. For group sales information call (203) 227-5137, x120.
Westport Country Playhouse, a not-for-profit theater, serves as a treasured home for the performing arts and is a cultural landmark for Connecticut. Under the artistic direction of Mark Lamos and management direction of Michael Ross, The Playhouse creates quality productions of new and classic plays that enlighten, enrich and engage a diverse community of theater lovers, artists and students. The Playhouse's rich history dates back to 1931, when New York theatre producer Lawrence Langner created a Broadway-quality stage within an 1830s tannery. The Playhouse quickly became an established stop on the New England "straw hat circuit" of summer stock theatres. Now celebrating its 80th season, Westport Country Playhouse has produced more than 700 plays, 36 of which later transferred to Broadway, most recently the world premiere of "Thurgood" and a revival of Thornton Wilder's "Our Town" with Paul Newman, and in earlier years "Come Back, Little Sheba" with Shirley Booth, "The Trip to Bountiful" with Lillian Gish, and "Butterflies Are Free" with Keir Dullea and Blythe Danner. For its artistic excellence, The Playhouse received a 2005 Governor's Arts Award and a 2000 "Connecticut Treasure" recognition. It was also designated as an Official Project of Save America's Treasures by the National Trust for Historic Preservation and is entered on the Connecticut State Register of Historic Places. Following a multi-million dollar renovation completed in 2005, The Playhouse transformed into a year-round, state-of-the-art producing theater, which has preserved its original charm and character. In addition to a full season of theatrical productions, The Playhouse serves as a community resource, presenting educational programming and workshops; a children's theater series; symposiums; music; films; and readings.
The five-play 2010 season will continue with "Dinner with Friends," a comic drama by Donald Margulies, directed by David Kennedy, Playhouse associate artistic director, June 1 through 19; "Happy Days" by Samuel Beckett, a play of luminous beauty and rare power, directed by Mark Lamos, July 6 through July 24; "I Do! I Do!," the joyful and touching musical, written by Tom Jones and Harvey Schmidt, August 10 through August 28; and "The Diary of Anne Frank," a timeless and powerful classic, by Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett, adapted by Wendy Kesselman, directed by Gerald Freedman, September 28 through October 16.
For more information or ticket purchases, call the box office (M-F, 12 to 6 p.m.) at (203) 227-4177, or toll-free at 1-888-927-7529, or visit 25 Powers Court, off Route 1, Westport. Tickets may be purchased online at www.westportplayhouse.org.
Photo credit: T. Charles Erickson