She Loves Me

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Cute, cute, cute. That’s what BYU’s production of “She Loves Me” is. Cute story, cute songs, cute cast, cute sets, cute everything. It’s so cute, and I’ve said “cute” so many times, that now “cute” doesn’t sound like a real word anymore. Cute, cute, cute.

“She Loves Me” aspires to no greater height than to provide light-hearted entertainment and escapism. It is frothy and bubbly and pleasant. Its one instant of unpleasantness — an offstage gunshot — is immediately covered by one of the silliest scenes in the show, as if to make us forget.

The musical is based on the Hungarian play that was also the basis for films like “You’ve Got Mail,” in which a man and woman hate each other while unwittingly falling in love as anonymous pen pals.

The setting is a Parisian perfume shop. The feuding couple includes salesman Georg Nowack (Paul Johnson) and the new salesgirl Amalia Balash (Heather Ferguson), who got off on the wrong foot with each other and never recovered.

Paul Johnson is charming as Georg, an occasionally befuddled Ordinary Guy with a bit of Jimmy Stewart in him. (In fact, Stewart played this character in the first film version, “The Shop Around the Corner.”) Johnson earns laughs without milking them, which is an admirable quality in a lead actor.

Heather Ferguson is also winning as Amalia. She is lovely as she prepares to meet her anonymous friend, then whimsically pathetic the next morning, after he never showed up. Her sparring with Johnson is often laugh-out-loud funny.

The supporting cast is equally enjoyable; there is not a weak link in the show. Veteran local director Jerry Elison plays store owner Mr. Maraczek so sweetly, he couldn’t win the audience’s affection more readily if he passed out $100 bills. Joe Mason is amusing as the meek salesman Sipos, Rob Moffat is appropriately oily as the skirt-chasing Kodaly, and Curt R. Jensen makes for an endearing delivery boy, Arpad.

We will also mention Suzie Jacobsen Balser as cashier Ilona Ritter, an unlucky-at-love single girl who eventually finds true romance at the public library, in one of the show’s many subplots. Balser plays her as a completely wonderful character, funny and real at the same time; if Balser has never played Adelaide in “Guys and Dolls,” she should.

Director David Tinney keeps pace brisk and the tone light, and his choreography is often entertaining in itself. The show is not mindless or stupid; it’s actually rather clever at times. It is sunny and joyous and delightful and, yes, cute.

Should you go? Hey, weren’t you paying attention? YES, you should go.

The disadvantage of going on a "preview" night: The show was riddled with horrendous sound problems. All the actors sounded like they were in caves, and that those caves were filled with Jell-O. But I couldn't mention that in the review, because if I had, people from the show would have responded, "It was only a preview! Those problems were fixed by 'opening night'!" To my knowledge, they never were fixed, but I couldn't have been sure of that in advance. Oh, well. The show was good anyway.

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