'She Loves Me' shines

Setting the tone of the stage with director Jeff Linebeck offering an engaging welcome to audience, smartly dressed in tuxedo gave lightness and humor to the evening. The curtain drawn back, silhouetted in deep blue, a delightful whimsical set by Drew Hill and Errol Hill, ornate cut outs of Maraczek's Parfu merie in Budapest circa 1930s, with beguiling percussive fingers of the overture on the piano by Richard Cherry and Patte Hadfield further drawing us into the evening's entertainment.

The music throughout the performance was delightful of course with the team of Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harnick a winning combination. You never had to strain to enjoy the tunes and lyrics. The entire cast offered good execution of the melodies; the leads, Shannon Thompson as Amalia Balash and Michael McCord as Georg Nowack certainly gave a pleasant voice to the music. The chorus support of carolers, customers, and clerks made up of Julie Citron, Suzi Dor geloh, CeCe King, Greta Schaub, James Sease, William Sease, and Liana Van de Water were beguiling and gave strength and vibrancy to the singing.

The story line has the audience watching two people, Amalie and Georg unknowingly writing "Dear Friend" letters to each while working together at the parfumerie, think of the updated film version, "You've Got Mail," with Tom Hanks. I did have difficulty at times hearing and understanding Ms. Thompson with her speaking voice. As much as her singing voice was clear and well supported her speaking voice needs further development, both in articulation and placement not as focused in the sinus cavities.

The secondary leads of Vanessa Beattie as Ilona Ritter and Richard Grip also gave energetic performances. In particular I will mention Ms. Beattie's singing voice did not have the usual quality one would expect and perhaps to some ears sound untrained. What I will offer is that she unabashedly let her voice speak for her in terms of how the character felt. I applaud her and at the same time suggest further training if she would continue performing in musicals. Mr. Sease I have seen on the Dorset stage and have watched with support to see him grow as an actor. Taking risks is vitally important if community-theater is to grow beyond its self imposed limits.

I have a soft spot in my heart for those over 65 and still acting on the stage. I am speaking of and honoring Bob Fry as Mr. Mara czek. I realize that there are a large number of the "baby boomers" and those who have come before who are out there in our communities with a sense of the world. I commend all of those who set themselves up as examples of living and creating life to the fullest. Mr. Fry is a treasure and I trust is well appreciated with the Dorset Players offering all and in particular the young generation a taste of eldership in a most endearing way.

I presume that the use of accents was consciously chosen not to be used.

Perhaps a wise decision although I would have liked to have that different element added for transporting us to another locale. Two outstanding examples of taking risk are Ryan Mangan as Arpad Laszlo, the errand-boy-would-be-clerk. He has command of the stage and he is certainly electrified and loves being on stage. I would also suggest that he study drama to further harness that energy in adding further authenticity to his acting. The other actor who stood out to me and had the right combination of showmanship, command of his singing and a honed acting ability was Christopher Restino as the headwaiter. Whether his talent comes naturally or has been studied in formal settings, we need more of that ability and confidence on the stage.

The show overall gave an evening's amusement with lifting us up at our seats. I however, have one criticism that as well as the set changes shifted as quickly as possible, done with military precision I felt the overall show was slow. I felt much of the music should have been handled with a faster tempo. None-the-less the music was executed well by the hands of the pianists, Mr. Cherry and Ms. Hadfield with delicacy and professional musicianship. I do have an issue with musicals in general in that so much focus is given to the music and singing that the acting is given second place of importance. I would offer that Mr. Linebeck pay closer attention to the deeper, more subtle, and genuine relationship between characters to engage us the audience into being even more concerned with what is happening on the stage. In closing, Mr. Linebeck did an admirable job of pulling together the cast and musicians.

"She Loves Me" is being staged at the Dorset Playhouse on Cheney Road. Performances will take place on May 22-24 at 7:30 p.m., and Sunday, May 25, at 2 p.m.


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