Ginger Hibiscus | Ginger Hibiscus | REVIEW: She Loves Me at the Landor Theatre
Ginger Hibiscus | REVIEW: She Loves Me at the Landor Theatre
Ginger Hibiscus | REVIEW: She Loves Me at the Landor Theatre
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10 Feb REVIEW: She Loves Me at the Landor Theatre

Right in time for Valentine’s Day, She Loves Me has arrived at the Landor Theatre, a light, frothy musical comedy that’s the perfect destination for a date night. When Amalia, a young Hungarian woman, responds to a Lonely Hearts advert, it doesn’t take long for her to forge an impenetrable – and mutual – bond with a man she’s never met, who’s sweet and kind and funny, and who has everything in common with her.  But as she plans to finally meet the love of her life, things aren’t quite as straightforward as she – or he – had hoped.

She Loves Me, Landor Theatre, 4th February - 7th March 2015, courtesy Darren Bell-7Creating the backdrop to this tale of romance, we follow Amalia as she learns to navigate the internal politics of the upmarket parfumerie she works in, where the boss, Mr Maraczek, is on the warpath, and it looks as though a head or two might roll…

Like most rom-coms, it’s a straightforward concept with predictable progression, a collection of two-dimensional minor characters, but some lovely costumes and a conclusion that leaves you with a smile on your face. But what really stands out is a sense that this is a bit of a missed opportunity. Every scene screams internet dating; what if Amalia met Georg anonymously on a dating website, eHarmony style, where an algorithm matches you with a date based on your mutual preferences and no photos are uploaded? When even the programme invites us to ”imagine if Amalia and Georg had met on Tinder,” it’s not a stretch to imagine how well the show could work with a different context, or how much more interesting it would have been.

Continuing the story of what might have been, whilst Masteroff’s book is clear that the play is set in 1930s Budapest, we see nothing of the more interesting eastern European angle, except for the inclusion of names like “Maraczek,” which are delivered in the most Anglicised way imaginable. Instead, the action appears to have wandered inexplicably across the Atlantic, with US accents, US language (“candy”) and US fashion on display. More of a niggle than a showstopper, it would have been great to have explored a touch of 20th century Hungarian culture, and would have added a fascinating dimension the musical.

Whilst this does feel like a missed opportunity, what the production does do, it does well. David Shields’ pink and white set transforms the Landor into the parfumerie, refined and versatile and ideally suited to She Loves Me. The songs and choreography are enjoyable if outdated, coming together in a glorious crescendo with the frenetic “12 days to Christmas,” a brilliant reduction of everything that it means to be on the receiving end of Christmas shoppers, and a wonderful ensemble piece. The show also features a standout vocal performance from the highly-billed Charlotte Jaconelli, who really comes into her own in ”Vanilla Ice Cream”, and with John Sandberg‘s infinitely likeable Georg, Benjamin Newsome once again proves he’s a force to be reckoned with in the casting arena.

Despite being a show that’s at least half an hour too long and that could do with a grade 4 hair cut, it’s an enjoyable musical comedy that’s as gentle as it is fun, and where what you see is what you get. Featuring an exploration of the chasm between the person portrayed when anonymity is granted, and that which exists when it’s retracted, She Loves Me is like my favourite hot chocolate: light, sugary and frothy – without any grit at the bottom.

Venue: Landor Theatre
Dates: 4th February – 7th March 2015
For tickets and information:
Image: Darren Bell

Star Rating

Ginger Hibiscus don’t like using stars as a headline; we think they’re too reductionist, and that decision-making based on stars misses the point of a review. Just as you wouldn’t judge a personality using a five-point scale, theatre is multi-dimensional. So have a read, and then look at the stars afterwards.
Okay, fine, but how many stars do you give it? Click here