Thursday, 12 February 2015

Theatre review: She Loves Me at the Landor Theatre



©Photo Darren Bell

For the longest of time I have been quite a West End snob, only venturing out to the 'regions' (Wimbledon, Richmond, Greenwich) for UK tours but otherwise sticking firmly to theatre outings on Shaftesbury Avenue and the surrounding area. However, once I started blogging about the plays and musicals I saw, I met fellow theatre enthusiasts and their positive reports have encouraged me to visit the less obvious performing spaces as well.

I've recently had excellent experiences at The King's Head Theatre in Islington and the Menier Chocolate Factory near London Bridge, and while my first visit to the Landor Theatre in Clapham wasn't a huge success (I didn't like the production I saw at the time), the space itself was wonderfully intimate and I was happy to give it another shot when an invite to She Loves Me arrived in my digital inbox.

Winner of both prestigious Tony Awards in the US (1964, 1993) and an Olivier Award on British shores (1994), She Loves Me is the musical adaptation of Miklos Laszlo's Parfumerie, the very same story which inspired film classic You've Got Mail with Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan. I'm a sucker for romance films, especially from the 80s and 90s, so I was particularly keen to see this sweet story play out on stage – and it didn't disappoint.

From the moment Amalia Balash (Charlotte Jaconelli of Britain's Got Talent fame) starts working in the same perfume shop as Georg Nowack (John Sandberg) they do nothing but bicker and grumble about one another to their co-workers. Georg cannot forgive Amalia for the way she charmed her way into the company, making him lose a bet in the process, and Amalia doesn't understand why Georg is always so hard on her.

Despite their differences they have more in common than they realise, as they both write regular love letters to a 'dear friend' they met through a lonely hearts advertisement. And, predictably though not any less entertaining because of this, it turns out that they've been writing to each other. However, can they put away their differences and see the other person as the 'dear friend' they each fell in love with through letter writing alone? Or will the workplace rivalry get the better of them?

The show starts off sugary sweet, not unlike one of the pink concoctions that are displayed in the beautiful bottles on the counters of Maraczek's Parfumerie. While the first several musical numbers, thought delightful to the ear, were unmemorable for longer than the duration of the performance, as soon as we hit the hummable Tonight At Eight the production took off, producing a wonderful night out at the theatre.

The real strength with this perhaps somewhat dated piece, however, lay with its unanimously brilliant cast. John Sandberg was a charming Georg with great comical timing and Charlotte Jaconelli's powerful soprano voice, which I was already impressed with when she was part of Britain's Got Talent, was even more mesmerising in such an intimate theatre space as the Landor. I also quickly fell in lovely with Joshua LeClaire's Arpad Laszlo, whose hopeful innocence charmed the audience from the first moment his big smile appeared on that small stage.

She Loves Me could perhaps do with a little upgrade to not come across as too gentle and unmemorable to today's audiences, but the fantastic cast make this production of the 1960s show at the Landor an outstanding one – and well worth a visit.




She Loves Me is running at the Landor Theatre until 7 March 2015. Buy tickets here.

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