Tuesday, April 23, 2013

broadway birthday SHE LOVES ME opened on Broadway 50 years ago today, August 23, 1963

The sweet, charming and romantic musical She Loves Me celebrates it's 50th birthday today.  Based on the Hungarian play Parfumerie, written by Miklos Lazlos, the work had already been turned into two successful Hollywood films before it was musicalized for Broadway.  Those films were the 1940 The Shop Around the Corner that starred James Steward and Magaret Sullavan and the 1949 musical version In the Good Old Summertime that starred Judy Garland and Van Johnson.  The story would also be the basis for the hit 1998 film written by Nora Ephron, You've Got Mail, that starred Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan.

The story is a simple love story, so simple that it is easy to see why it has been used for the basis of three films and a Broadway musical.  Two co-workers who despise each other don't realize that they are actually pen pals who met through a "personals" ad in the paper and who are in love with the person they are exchanging letters with.

Daniel Massey and Barbara Cook in the Broadway production
 The musical starred Barbara Cook as Amalia Balash and Daniel Massey as Georg Nowack, the two co-workers who don't realize they are actually in love with each other through their letters.  The musical also featured Barbara Baxely and Jack Cassidy who also played co-workers at the shop Ilona Ritter and Stephen Kodaly but who had an unsuccessful romance.  The musical which was directed by Hal Prince would run on Broadway for 302 performances and close on January 11, 1964.  A London production that featured Rita Moreno as Ilona premiered in April 1964 but only managed a run of 189 shows.  A Broadway revival in 1993 that featured Boyd Gaines, Judy Kuhn, Sally Mayes and Howard McGillin would run for a year.  That revival production which featured a lovely set design by Tony Walton would also be mounted in the West End the next year, featuring Ruthie Henshall as Illona, where it would also have a year long run.
Barbara Baxley and Barbara Cook

With a score by Jerry Bock and lyrics by Sheldon Harnick, She Loves Me was the fourth show the duo collaborated on and was their biggest hit after the team's very successful 1959 show Fiorello and would premiere just one year before their 1964 smash Fiddler on the Roof.   The score is rich with jewels of songs including "Vanilla Ice Cream," "She Loves Me," "A Trip to the Library," and "Will He Like Me?." And even though both the Broadway and London original productions and revivals didn't run that long all four would receive cast recordings.  The book of She Loves Me was by Joe Masteroff who would go on to work with Kander and Ebb when he wrote the book for Cabaret.

She Loves Me is a simple yet sweet and romantic musical and I never tire of the score and recommend anyone who enjoys musical theatre and romance to not pass up the change to see a production of this show if one happens to be presented in a city near you.

Diane Fratantoni, Sally Mayes and Boyd Gaines Tony Award performance:

the 1978 BBC tv version of the musical:

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