Review: A Gratifying Visit With the Dear Friends of ‘She Loves Me’ at South Park Theatre


She Loves Me is a sheer delight of a rom-com musical, with themes and characters so vivid, it defies its 1930s roots.

The 1963 musical stems from a list of beloved adaptations of the 1937 Hungarian play Parfumerie, following in the footsteps of films such as The Shop Around the Corner and, more recently, You’ve Got Mail.

She Loves Me boasts a book by Joe Masteroff (Cabaret), plus music by the team behind Fiddler on the Roof,  composer Jerry Bock and lyricist Sheldon Harnick

Audrey Logan and Ryan Patrick Kearney in She Loves Me at South Park Theatre. (Hawk Photography & Multimedia LLC)

We lost Harnick this week, at age 99, so it felt like a fitting tribute to take in She Loves Me Friday, courtesy of South Park Theatre.

The production, directed by Melissa Hill Grande, leans into the show’s timeless charms and humor, as well as showcasing the talents of soprano Audrey Logan.

The South Fayette High School grad, a newcomer to the theater, was the Gene Kelly Awards’ Best Actress in 2021 who went on to Oklahoma City University. 

She is home for the summer, exuding star power as Amalia Balash – a role played most recently on Broadway by five-time Tony nominee Laura Benanti. Logan reminds me of Benanti both comedically and vocally. She hits all the high notes – one in particular that folks familiar with the show will anticipate – with seeming ease, and without sacrificing character. 

She stars in a story that you probably know, even if you’ve never seen this show: A couple-to-be start off loathing one another, unaware that they are falling in love as correspondents in what would be a ’30s version of Tinder. Each has answered a Lonely Hearts Club ad for like-minded, anonymous penpals, and you can guess the rest.

Logan’s adept partner in loathing, longing and loving is Ryan Patrick Kearney, in his seventh production for South Park. He plays George Novak, the workaholic, upright manager of Maraczek’s busy Budapest parfumerie. 

When Logan’s Amalia comes crashing into Georg’s life as the shop’s new hire, he has found a nemesis, or so he at-first believes.

The cast of She Loves Me, at South Park Theatre through July 15.

(Hawk Photography & Multimedia LLC)

Shop clerk Sipos (Robert Hockenberry), who makes no overt waves but is a keen observer, explains to young messenger Arpad (Dylan Lawton) that the sparks between Georg and Amalia that seem like a fiery dislike might indicate quite the opposite.

The audience is in on it almost from the beginning, but other characters and the couple themselves take a while to catch up. Few shows, however, get to the ah-ha moment as winningly as She Loves Me.

Hidden identities and secrets play key roles among the other occupants of the neat little perfume shop. Among them, Ken Lutz’s benevolent Maraczek, who undergoes a change of heart that runs parallel to his clerks’ storylines, and Krista Strosnider as Ilona Ritter, who is having a not-so-secret, oh-so-frustrating romance with fellow clerk Steven Kodaly – Sam Brooks, having a ball as the slimy misogynist.

Candice Fisher shows comedic chops as the maitre d’ in a purposefully chaotic cafe scene that also turns the spotlight on an adept and agile ensemble: Ayden Freed, Elizabeth Glyptis, Mike Good, Delaney Molnar and Sarah Nadler.

There is a first-act shocker that includes the firing of a gun, and the result does not play out until after intermission – but it’s good to remember that this is a comedy. 

That second act of She Loves Me features solos for most of the main characters, leading up to the anticipated ending. 

A favorite, and a challenge to musical theater sopranos everywhere, is “Vanilla Ice Cream” – Kearney’s Georg has brought the treat to a sick Amalia, whose heart begins to melt in regards to her perceived enemy. The song mixes vocal styles and feelings until it comes to a crescendo that requires the singer to hit the top of their range – for some, a high C – which Logan nailed on Friday night.

It’s followed by the title song, in which Kearney gets to let loose and belt his feelings. 

Sam Brooks as Kodaly and Krista Strosnider as Ilona dance at the She Loves Me parfumerie, while Robert Hockenberry and Dylan Lawton look on.
(Hawk Photography & Multimedia LLC)

Ritter’s “A Trip to the Library,” featuring some of my favorite Harnick lyrics, gave Ilona the sweet and satisfying moment you might be rooting for – leading to Brooks’ revealing his true self in “Grand Knowing You.”

Lawton’s Arpad and Hockenberry’s Sipos get similar moments to shine in the production, with a nimble, evocative set by Sabrina Hykes-Davis. Hockenberry also serves as costume designer, and Ritter, as choreographer, in South Park Theater’s delightful rendering of a piece that holds a special place in my heart. 

She Loves Me debuted on Broadway in 1963, the year that President Kennedy signed the Equal Pay Act into law. And it just so happens that this story, set in Hungary in 1934, presents two working women – one who pursues her dreams, in terms of a job and love, and the other who reconsiders a toxic workplace relationship. 

I always look forward to visits with these “dear friends,” and how nice to also welcome a new voice such as Audrey Logan’s to the area’s musical theater scene.


She Loves Me is at South Park Theatre, Brownsville Road and Corrigan Drive, Thursday-Sunday through July 15. Visit https://sites.google.com/a/southparktheatre.com/south-park-theatre or call 412-831-8552.

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