BERWICK — “It was a dark and stormy night” on the 16th, but it was anything but inside at the Hackmatack Playhouse in Berwick.

Celebrating the opening of their 45th season at the reconditioned barn theater, executive producer Michael Guptill welcomed an enthusiastic audience there to see the first of this seasons shows “She Loves Me.” 

With book by Joe Masteroff and songs by Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harnick this show opened at the O’Neill Theater on Broadway in April of ’63. While Bock and Harnick wrote the hit show “Fiddler On The Roof” but one year later, one would never guess that they created this particular score. (At least I would not.)

It surely is not that the songs are poor, far from it. Each song in the show furthers the story line.  This is what songs in a musical are supposed to do. The problem is that none of these songs can stand alone and I suspect that may be one of the reasons the show closed but nine months later.  There are no songs like “Sunrise Sunset” or “Hello Dolly” (another one of this duos more successful shows.) Even though  some reviews may be thinly disguised informercials in print, I wish to state at the outset that this reviewer was enchanted by the performance and production.

A hallmark of a good show is that one is not aware of the passing of time. I was not. The principals were good fits for their roles. Laura Cantwell (Amelia Balash) was convincing as the female lead and her voice recalled the timbre and quality of Julie Andrews. She has exchanged letters with an individual and has grown fond of that person even though they have never met. However, the person she has been corresponding with works in the cosmetics shop where she gains employment. That person is Georg Nowack played by Marcus Provost.

He has a pleasing tenor voice and interacts very well with the other characters. They sing well separately (Laura: “Will he like me?”) (George: Tonight at Eight”) and also together: Mr. Nowack, Will You Please.”) A highlight of the show takes please in a cafe where the two are supposed to meet face to face. The meeting does not come off because he thinks she is meeting someone else. A musical preview of the Bottle Dance takes place featuring the talented dancing of Ben Hanley.

The secondary female lead is given to Rachel Noland who plays the part of Ilone Ritter. Her singing of “A Trip to the Library” was outstanding. Alec Paulson as Kodaly makes the most of his part with his rendition of “Grand Knowing You.” Will Lombard likewise impressed with his Gomer Pyle delivery and his singing of “Try Me.” Mike Buck impressed with his role of obsequious employee and his singing of “Perspective.”

The owner of the shop, Mr. Maraczek, mistakenly believed his wife was being unfaithful to him, unsuccessfully tries to kill himself and has a complete and convincing change of character (a la Scrooge). The entire cast impressed with the performance of “Goodbye Georg” in which the customers have one repeated musical idea while the clerks have another. 

As in all good musicals, all is well at the end. Amelia and George meet and like each other. The Boss becomes a good boss, Lazlo gets promoted from errand boy to clerk. There is a toe tapping finale in “The Twelve Days of Christmas.” The action on the stage seems so natural and this as well as the movements of the non-principals in the latter song is due to the choreography of  Crystal Lisbon. 

The sets consist of various parts which seamlessly move from one locale to another and credit here goes to Dane Leeman. The music direction is truly outstanding and credit here rightly goes to Kenneth Griffin at the keyboard and his four talented colleagues. 

Ultimately the credit or blame of any show falls to the director, in this case Danielle Howard. In this case the credit was earned many times over. All in all, this show has many moving parts which give the theater goer an enjoyable theatrical experience. Future performances occur on June 21 to the 24, and June 28 to July 1 with Matinees on June 22 and 29. Show times are at 8 p.m. for the evenings shows and 2 p.m. for the matinees.

Morton Gold is a composer/conductor, retired educator and an arts reviewer for the Journal Tribune.


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