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Theater: Spring Is Here

2 minute read

She Loves Me is shamelessly romantic, head over heels in love with love. For the Broadway theater this is quite a switch; its musicomedy heroes and heroines of the last couple of seasons have been more in thrall to cupidity than Cupid. What makes the heart beat faster in How to Succeed is money; in I Can Get It for You Wholesale, money; in Stop the World, money; in No Strings, money and in Little Me, men with money. The theme of Oliver! is a dreadful lack of money, and in Tovarich the problem is how to get rid of boodles of it. If the bored-to-tears hero of Mr. President were not so inarticulate, his theme song would doubtless be, “I’d rather be rich than President.” In this company, a gentle, sentimental escapist charmer like She Loves Me is old-fashioned enough to be new.

Another old-fashioned innovation is that the leads can sing. Heroine Barbara Cook is fresher than springtime. Hero Daniel Massey (the son of Raymond) is greener than first love. Hesitant, ardent, naive, highhearted, he sets the fairytale mood of a show that has to make players and playgoers alike forget the false face of logic. The plot is only a paperweight designed to keep the airy goings-on from blowing away completely.

Barbara and Daniel are secret lonely heart pen pals who have corresponded for a year without either happening to give the other a clue to the fact that they are fellow clerks in the same Budapest par-fumerie. They are ecstatic about each other in print, and rather allergic to each other in person. When will the epistolary lovers discover the secret behind their secret? With all the fine and relaxing talents caroling and cavorting onstage, it is not a pressing question.

Taste, restraint, and precision characterize She Loves Me, notably in the staging of musical numbers by Carol Haney, a stylist of spoof with the wit to be brief. In a wry ballad of self-castigation, Comedienne Barbara Baxley kisses the pleasures of sex and the single girl goodbye while Jack (“Grand Knowing You”) Cassidy is the cat’s whiskers dipped in cream as the roue who drove her to ruing. Vitally integrated with the book are the lyrics and music of Sheldon Harnick and Jerry Bock, who have produced a light operatic score in which song follows song as naturally as bud bursts into leaf.

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