SHE LOVES ME
Book by Joe Masteroff
Music by Jerry Bock
Lyrics by Sheldon Harnick
Rockwall Community Playhouse
Director Felicia Sykes
Assistant Director Ladawn Cantu
Stage Manager Ashley Reeves
Costumes Judy Perser, Wiloni Darrington
Light/Sound Tech Marie Norris
Producer Joyce Hopkins
GEORGE NOVACK Joseph Burnam
AMALIA BALASH Molly Pope
ILONA RITTER Claire Crenshaw
STEVEN KODALY Chris Edwards
LADISLAV SIPOS Dane Hoffman
MR. MARACEZK Rob Richardson
ARPAD LASZLO Grant Palmore
MAITRE D/WAITER Gene Fields
DETECTIVE KELLER Doug Lake
CUSTOMER 3 Wiloni Darrington
CUSTOMER 1 Mac Kozak
CUSTOMER 2 Emily Maxwell
Reviewed Performance: 2/17/2018
Reviewed by Mildred Austin, Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN
Rockwall Community Playhouse was founded in January 1995 and is an all volunteer, 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. The theatre is located just a few blocks east of the square in Rockwall, on Rusk St. in what appears to be (I'm guessing here) a renovated church from some years back. And the Playhouse is in a unique position among community theatre organizations in that they own the property, which should allow them to produce, plan and promote their seasons in advance. And, though I don't have information on other nights, my night enjoyed a full house!
Playing during Valentines, both before and after, this is a delightful choice of a show for the season. It is like our Valentine gifts-pure sweet, wonderful candy. The play is an adaption of Miklos Laszlo's PARMUMERIE and has been made into three movies: THE LITTLE SHOP AROUND THE CORNER, THE GOOD OLD SUMMERTIME, AND, more recently, YOU'VE GOT MAIL, starring Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan. Though the story line is predictable and dialogue isn't deep, this show will bring a smile to you face, at the very least.
The show I saw on February 17, 2018, was full of energy and music. It begins with the workers arriving at the Maracezk store which sells makeup, perfume and other beauty products for women and greeting each other "GOOD MORNING, GOOD DAY". Director Felicia Sykes chose to set this production in New York City in 1940 and and the store owner and clerks are of Hungarian descent, their grandparents have come to America and thus the Hungarian names of the characters. But this show is timeless and could be adapted to almost any time and place. The opening number immediately sets the tone of the show-light good humor, smiles, teasing-- in a word, FUN.
I have to be honest straight off. Musicals are not my favorite genre on the stage. There is usually little character development, instead the show often depends on stock characters and schticks and even mugging to the audience. S,o when I attend a musical (as an audience member not there to review), I go for the music, singing and dancing most of all, not plot or character development. There are exceptions, certainly, and I am now willing to make SHE LOVES ME one of those exceptions as presented by the Rockwall Players. The music was almost incidental. The singing almost acapella. And, for the most part, the vocals were good. There were some flat and sharp notes, but overall, very acceptable in a small community theatre presentation.
There were also some outstanding actors who not only held their own in the vocals, but in filling out their characters, notably Dane Hoffman as Ladislav Sipos and Grant Palmore as the earnest wanna be sales clerk Arpad Laszlo. Both were so easy and comfortable in their roles and their scenes together were especially delightful. Hoffman was fun to watch as his character often "commented" on the story without saying a word. And Palmore managed to bring a youthful presence to the stage every time he appeared.
Molly Pope as Amalia Balash, the heroine of the story, was appropriately pert, pretty and sympathetic. The Playhouse is a very small theatre and I often found her facial expressions too big for the size of the venue. Pope did, however, hit her stride with vocals. She has a lovely soprano voice which seemed to spring easily from within her.
Pope and the other main female actor, Claire Crenshaw, who played Ilona Ritter, both had unusual singing "quirks"-their mouths opening to strangely shaped wide "O's" from time to time. I found this very distracting-and odd that both were doing this. Musical direction, perhaps. But Crenshaw, like Pope, did have a strong voice and a strong physical characterization to go with it. I found her more natural, more believable and next to Hoffman, probably the strongest performer in the show. Both were delightful to watch and listen to.
Chris Edwards as the oily salesclerk Steven Kodaly, was superb both in vocals and physical characterization. Like some of the others, however, variety was missing. It seemed he too suddenly to transition to the jerk that was always there, lurking.
Joseph Burnam as the lead man, Georg Novack, displayed a strong singing voice but fell somewhat short on portraying the change his character undergoes as the story moves along. He wasn't unlikeable enough in the beginning so that we recognized his metamorphosis into the man that his letters bespoke later on. Both leads failed at this-never unlikeable enough so we could see the change in their demeanors in the sick room scene fully. But that criticism is relatively minor, as it is a musical, and they both shone in their singing roles.
Rob Richardson as Mr. Maracezk, the proprietor of the little shop, was dutifully managerial and bossy, but lacking energy in the book scenes. He came to life in his musical number "Days Gone By".
A special applause to Doug Luke who portrayed Detective Keller. After many acting experiences, he returned to the stage in this small role after some devastating physical challenges in the recent past. And special thanks to the director, Ms. Sykes, for providing this opportunity for him. Perfect role and opportunity for a not-yet-ready-to-retire actor!
The three women "customers" were certainly adequate in all their roles, though, again, variation between their characters wasn't strong. Their retro costumes were very nice, although I'm still not sure about the fat suit Ms. Darrington wore. It was obviously fake, and I couldn't figure out why other than the chuckles it produced. But I found the obviousness distracting.
Overall, however, the costumes were outstanding. The staff of Maracezk's store wore clothing true to the period, with just the right touch of color to coordinate them and put some zing into things. The set was a gem. Beautifully designed and executed it worked well to generate the feeling of the "little shop around the corner".
Ms. Sykes handled the staging of the show quite well. It's not a big stage and there were times when almost the entire cast was on it and she moved the actors easily and comfortably around as the scenes progressed. In her notes, she indicated this show was a favorite of hers and I could see her joy in her staging and direction of the actors. I'm betting this show was a lot of fun for everyone involved! It certainly was a lot of fun for me and seemed so, too, for the rest of that full house.
Kudos RCP! You are to commended not only for this thoroughly enjoyable evening's entertainment, but also for you vision in providing theatre to the citizens of Rockwall. At a time when many DFW community theatres are going belly up due to finances, this group has had the long-range planning in place to not only be able to purchase their current digs on Rusk St., just blocks from the square in old downtown Rockwall and in walking distance of several great eating places, they also own seven acres of land a few blocks from their current home and plan to build a new facility there in the not-too-distant future! This little gem is well-worth finding on a Friday or Saturday evening or Sunday afternoon!
SHE LOVES ME
Rockwall Community Playhouse
609 E. Rusk St.
Rockwall, TX 75087
Playing through February 25
Friday and Saturday performances at 8:00 p.m.
Sunday at 2:00
Tickets by phone or online: