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Musical ‘She Loves Me’ Still Touching Hearts

  • Cheng Xiaohong

A heart-warming love story set in Budapest during the 1930s was recently staged at Arena Stage in Washington D.C. Elaine Lu takes a look at the musical "She Loves Me."

The plot of the musical "She Loves Me" involves a handsome young salesman named Georg who was the star of the small cosmetics shop where he worked. Kevin Kraft plays Georg.

"Georg is an early 30s bachelor in Hungary. And it's very unusual at that time to be a bachelor at 30. It's 1937, around there. And he is looking for love," explains Kraft.

Amalia, a new hire, threatened Georg's status at the store. During her first day at work, Amalia persuaded a customer to buy one of the new musical cigarette boxes. It started a competitive and mutually despising relationship between Georg and Amalia.

Brynn O'Malley plays Amalia. "She's a big book worm. She's an intellectual. In the 1930s, it wasn't really not like today; it's encouraged for a young woman to be educated and well read, intellectual. So it kind of isolated her. She's very alone. She doesn't have a boyfriend. She doesn't have many friends. She's close to her mother. That's about it."

Outside of work, both Georg and Amalia are engrossed with their secret pen pals. Little did they know the person they were so in love with on paper turned out to be the person they most despised in life -- each other.

The musical is an adaptation of a play by Hungarian playwright Miklos Lazslo, with music and lyrics by Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harnick, who later had even greater success with Fiddler on the Roof. The original musical opened on Broadway in the 1960s. Arena Stage brought the charming musical to Washington D.C. with its uniquely designed set and costumes, and performers selected from all over the U.S.

"She Loves Me" later inspired the popular romantic comedy film "You've Got Mail." Nancy Lemenager, who plays the saleswoman Ritta in the musical, says the play's simple message gives the show its lasting appeal.

"Because it's about love, I think. If you look at great songs, great novels, great movies, great musicals, they are always written about love as the base of it. The reason things keep getting written with that subject is because people relate to it. "

As the rosy colored set suggests, this show has a happy ending. Georg and Amalia finally fall in love with each other.

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