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Warren Gerds/Critic at Large: Review: Lovely ‘She Loves Me’ taking audiences back in Menasha

Critic At Large

Attic Chamber Theatre, Inc.

Lobby display of cast, director and music director for Attic Chamber Theatre, Inc. production of “She Loves Me.” (Warren Gerds)

MENASHA, Wis. (WFRV)

On the back shelf of the library is a book with a handsomely tooled dark red leather cover, the kind that’s hardly made anymore. Just by its substance, it asks to be opened. The book has been in the library a long time. As the book is opened, the “read me” scent of library books rises. This book goes way back, as do the pictures and images in it. If this book could act and sing, it would be “She Loves Me.”

It would act and sing of a place somewhere abroad, using names not common to the American ear. The time is past – 70, 80 years. From the first picture, the place is a perfume store. The pages tell of love – in the making, messed around with and broken. Mostly, the focus is on the love in the making kind.

Amalia and Georg are the characters. Their path to getting together – which you know will happen from the start – includes a half dozen roundabouts.

The setup is they have met by letters, and they do not know each other’s name. It just so happens they work together in the perfume store, where they fight like cat and dog. It’s all so unlikely, and yet the story pulls forward, like those of myths. Also, the people around get them get into the act with stories of their own.

Now, to Attic Chamber Theatre, Inc., which is closing its 2019 season in Lucia Baehman Theatre at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh Fox Cities Campus (new name) with a lovely production of “She Loves Me.” Some coming performances are sold out.

The production is of the size that suits the “chamber” in the name Attic Chamber Theatre.

The musical harkens to the day when operettas were in style. The singing is of that texture on the ear – lush, vivid, clear, bright. Especially astute at the style are the Amelia and Georg of this cast – Marie Elena Dalzell and Matt Kierzek. Their training on Wisconsin collegiate campuses shows. In one soul-searching number, Marie Elena Dalzell lofts an operatic-type burst that paints the air like a rainbow.

Director Berray Billington and music director Carol Jegen collaborate to build a cooperative spirit in the cast. There is plenty of side action for all – even for a nightspot bus boy – with more of the specific style of singing.

In an important side story among clerks in the store, Ilona Ritter (Katie Castel) as bought into the line of Steven Kodaly (Cade Wilson). She goes from brash to burnt, and he stays the course as hormonal cads do so well – with his capping song proving so with nasty touches.

Running the store is Mr. Maraczek (Dick Furniss), whose efficiency has one blind spot that fires up complications for all.

Fleshing out more of the story’s color in the store are loyal clerk Ladislav Sipos (Robert Ernst) and delivery boy Arpad Laszlo (Logan Hash). Each gets a chapter, expressing a character by persona and/or song.

The main set pieces have two personalities – the exterior of the store and (turning the pieces around) the interior. Color plays a role. The colors (red, green, tan) of the checkered floor of the interior are repeated on the exterior of the store and in the patchwork of a quilt on a bed in the opening of Act II.

The live orchestra boosts the aura – plus. The “plus” comes when violinist Jessica Bittner becomes one of the players in the story as part of a scene as violinist in a romantic night spot, playing a florid love tune.

That book in the library really takes you back. There is so much in it worth savoring.

***

Creative: Book – Joe Masteroff; music – Jerry Bock; lyrics – Sheldon Harnick; director – Berray Billington; music director – Carol Jegen; choreographer – Katie Castel; stage manager – Dylan Thoren; production coordinator – Robert Ernst; technical director – John Dalziel; costume designer – Stephanie Graf; scenic and lighting designer – John Dalziel; sound designer – Adam Hay; props master – Robert Ernst

Cast:

Arpad Laszlo – Logan Hash

Ladislav Sipos – Bob  Ernst

Ilona Ritter – Katie Castel

Steven Kodaly- Cade Wilson

Georg Nowack- Matt Kierzek

Mr. Maraczek – Dick Furniss

Amalia Balash- Marie Elena Dalzell

Head Waiter – Paul Vanden Boogard

Bus Boy – Raymond Tiffany

Keller – Tony Salsich

Couples and Costumers – Kelly Reisterer, Jenn Leahy, Jessica Bittner, Klaire Kulas, Justin Torazala

Musicians: Strings keyboard – Justin Krueger; violin, French horn – Jessica Bittner; percussion – Vicky Daniels; accordion, harp keyboard – Micah Sommersmith; flute, piccolo – Audrey Moore; clarinet – Sasha Higgins

Running time: Two hours, 45 minutes

Remaining performances: 7 p.m. July 18, 19, 20 (sold out); 2 p.m. July 21 (sold out); 7 p.m. July 23, 24, 25, 26

Info: attictheatreinc.com

***

Musical numbers

Act I

Overture – Orchestra

“Good Morning, Good Day” – Siopos, Arpad, Ritter, Kodaly, Georg

“Sounds While Selling” – Company

“Days Gone By” – Mr. Maraczek

“Thank You, Madam #1” – Ritter, Kodaly, Sipos, Georg

“No More Candy” – Amalia

“Thank You, Madam #2” – Amalia, Ritter, Kodaly, Sipos, Georg

“Letter – Summer” – Georg

“Letter – Autumn” – Georg

“Letter – Winter” – Georg, Amalia

“Tonight at Eight” – Georg

“I Don’t Know His Name” – Amalia, Ritter

“Perspective” – Sipos

“Thank You, Madam #3” – Amalia, Ritter, Kodaly, Sipos

“Goodbye Georg” – Customers, Clerks

“Will He Like Me?” – Amalia

“Ilona” – Kodaly, Sipos, Arpad

“I Resolve” – Ritter

“A Romantic Atmosphere” – Head Waiter

“Tango Tragique” – Bus Boy

“Dear Friend” – Amalia

Act II

Entr’acte – Orchestra

“Try Me” – Arpad

“Where’s My Shoe?” – Amalia, Georg

“Vanilla Ice Cream” – Amalia

“She Loves Me” – Georg

“A Trip to the Library” – Ritter

“Grand Knowing You” – Kodaly

“A Christmas Carol” – Carolers

“Twelve Days to Christmas” – Company

“Finale” – Georg and Amalia

***

THE VENUE: Lucia Baehman Theatre is a 125-seat, rectangular space in the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh Fox Cities Campus (name change as of July 12, 2019) Communication Arts Center. Lined by black stage curtains on each wall, the space serves as a black-box theater. There are no adornments, and the stage and space are adaptable to whatever a production needs. The adjacent lobby is spacious and includes a ticket office, snack service area, restrooms and spaces for art and photo displays. The center opened in 2009.

THE PEOPLE: Lucia Baehman and her husband, Stan, are longtime supporters of theater in the Fox River Valley.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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