If you're looking for something pleasantly different in the way of musicals, She Loves Me will suit you fine.
It's a froth of a romance — sweet, sentimental, predictable — set in a 1930s Budapest perfume shop, where commerce and romance share the spotlight. The songs are a mix of Gilbert and Sullivan patter and Rodgers and Hammerstein ballads, the story straight out of a Turner Classic Movies tribute to the moon-June-spoon era.
It concerns all the facets of love or its imitators: a happily married man, a mixed-up cuckold, an aging Lothario, a woman of easy virtue, a young, naive girl, an ambitious but romantic fellow and glimpses of shoppers seeking their own sparks of love through perfumes and lotions.
What makes the Richey Suncoast Theatre production of She Loves Me different, and special, are the really good voices and all-out performances of director Peter Nason's talented cast. The players take the skimpy script and shallow roles for what they are and, with a wink and a nod, plus plenty of physical humor and pratfalls, turn each one into something unique and fun.
Top kudos to Chris Cavalier, who stepped into the lead role of store clerk Georg Nowack two weeks ago when the original player had a medical emergency. Cavalier quickly and impressively captured the feel, look and grace that the role requires.
Cavalier's smooth, sure voice and sweetly earnest demeanor are just right for this part, and he's a perfect match for the lovely Megan Gillespie as the new shop girl, Amalia Balash, who sighs with love for her secret pen pal, who is, of course, guess who.
Cavalier's fine performance peaks when he solos on the title song midway through Act 2, adding moves and body language that encapsulate the feel of the whole story. Ms. Gillespie's pixieish ways are showcased in her big scenes, where she panics over a lost shoe (Where's My Shoe?) and melts over Georg's little gift to her, Vanilla Ice Cream.
Beth Phillips is almost too beautiful and classy to be the "easy" woman, Ilona Ritter, the shop clerk who falls for the smarmy Stephen Kodaly (Keith Surplus), but she pulls it off with heartfelt feelings in I Resolve never to fall for another heel and her triumph, A Trip to the Library, where she finds an unexciting, but true love.
Nate Sakovich is a charming hoot as Ladislav Sipos, the family guy who only wants to keep his job (Perspective) no matter how boring or humiliating it is. Sakovich's Ladislav adds to the effectiveness of his fellow players simply by being Ladislav in the background as they go through their own personal woes.
A highlight comes at the upscale restaurant where Georg and Amalia are to meet, where CJ Fowler's Head Waiter and Matt Elliott's Vikto the Busboy mix it up like something from a Three Stooges episode, with head-butts, pratfalls and wild physical humor that earns big belly laughs, as Head Waiter insists on a quiet, romantic atmosphere, then shouts and gesticulates his patrons into a zany Hungarian fling.
An appealing newcomer is Michael Mekus as the eager young Arpad Laszlo, the ambitious delivery boy, whose voice and acting skills are on display as he urges store owner Mr. Maraczek (George Morgan ) to Try Me as a clerk.
Joan Gesche's six-piece orchestra provides nice accompaniment, and Marie Skelton and Mary Branham's attractive costumes go a long way to set the tone and time.
To fully enjoy She Loves Me requires the patron to enter the theater expecting something out of the ordinary: a sweet, old-fashioned story sung through by an unusually gifted cast.
One tiny thing I would add: shopping bags. Patrons appear to be buying a lot, but they never seem to take anything with them.