Jessica Adamson, Josh O’Brien, Erin Silliman, Jennifer Poliskie, Erik Moth, & John Campbell in She Loves Me. Photo: CenterStage

She Loves You

Book by Joe Masteroff
Music by Jerry Bock, lyrics by Sheldon Harnick
Directed by Barrett Cooper

A review by Keith Waits

Entire contents are copyright © 2024 by Keith Waits. All rights reserved.

Charming if a bit slight, She Loves Me is a small yet engaging surprise of a musical. Based on the same Hungarian play, Parfumerie, adapted into the 1940 film The Shop Around the Corner and eventually the 1998 movie You’ve Got Mail, it is arguably not quite as good as the former but decidedly better than the latter.

It was first staged in 1963 and big musicals were already a trend, driving the Broadway economy so that a small, intimate story like this was already falling out of fashion. It is a simple romantic comedy about two people working in a shop, not knowing that they are also each other’s secret pen pals, maintaining a passionate romantic correspondence without ever having met. At work, there is friction, but in the letters, they are in love.

Georg Nowack (Josh O’Brien letting his innate decency dominate) is the #1 sales clerk at Mr. Maraczyk’s shop where all manner of soaps and scents are available. Amalia Balash (a sparkling Erin Silliman) earns herself a position by impressing the owner (John Campbell) with her customer service skills (“No More Candy”). 

The funny thing is, Georg and Amalia have been writing letters to each other under pen names, and co-worker Ladislov (Moth) recognizes their conflict as a denial of mutual attraction. Meanwhile, another clerk, the drop-dead gorgeous Ilona (Jessica Adamson) carries on a not-so-secret affair with fellow staffer Steven Kodaly (Phil Gosselin). 

Love is not easy, and storytellers have long been fond of illustrating that through easily defeated contrivances that any reasonable person would overcome. But who said people in love are reasonable? Georg makes a stupid choice at a key moment that is not in his best interest, and I wanted to walk onstage and slap some sense into Josh O’Brien. It would have made She Loves Me a one-act musical, however, and I know full well that most of us are quite capable of acting against our self-interest.    

The whimsical story can seem featherlight, but the score is by Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harnick, who would only be part of creating The Fiddler on the Roof a couple of years later. If not as weighty in theme as that show, it does demonstrate the same wit and ingenuity and is given a good workout by this cast of good actors who can sing. Silliman’s voice was sure and strong in merged with adroit comedic skill in “Where’s My Shoe?” and Adamson is a blast belting out “A Trip to the Library”, a number which has little to do with the plot but highlights the charismatic Adamson’s first-class singing voice. Likewise, Dalton Burns shines in his solo, “Try Me”. Rob Leffler’s musical direction of a tight six-piece orchestra helped these performances immeasurably.

Silliman and Adamson are just the top of a strong vocal ensemble (the great Jennifer Poliskie is in the chorus!). It’s such a pleasure to again be reminded of the surplus of talent available in Louisville. Under Barrett Cooper’s direction, they all nail the comedy as well. This a funny, effervescent show and even sent this curmudgeonly reviewer leaving the theatre humming the score with a smile.

The design work is good; kudos to Karl Anderson for the sets and Nick Dent for the lights, but Rose Riehm’s costumes were a cut above, beautifully expressing character and circumstance while making everyone look splendid. One quibble would be with wigs, particularly Silliman’s, who played her first scenes with an errant, bouncy curl that did her no favors. 

Featuring Jessica Adamson, Dakota Burns, John Campbell, Taylor Dant, Andy Epstein, Cameron Fontes, Louisa Frey, Phil Gosselin, Erik Moth, Josh O’Brien, Jennifer Poliskie, Bradley Powell, Victoria Saunders, Austin Seeley, Erin Silliman, & Rachel Street 

Orchestra: Jenny Casey, Susan Crocker, Dathan Echols, Jack Fox, Rob Leffler, & Jack Walker 

She Loves You

May 9, 11, 16 & 18 @ 7:30 pm
May 12 & 19 @ 2:00 pm 

Centerstage at the Trager Family JCC
3600 Dutchman’s Lane
Louisville, KY 40205

Keith Waits is a native of Louisville who works at Louisville Visual Art during the days, including being the host of Artists Talk with LVA on WXOX 97.1 FM /, but spends most of his evenings indulging his taste for theatre, music, and visual arts. His work has appeared in LEO Weekly, Pure Uncut Candy, TheatreLouisville, and Louisville Mojo. He is now Managing Editor for