November 12, 2004





One musical that's hard to love


Characters sing in a musical when their emotions overtake them -- when mere dialogue can't convey their feelings. Characters in the cutesy classic "She Loves Me" sing because they're in a musical, illustrating musically what they might more easily say -- in fact, often have just said.


Only in the show's steadily thickening second act do tune-worthy emotions emerge, as a pair of contentious co-workers begin to realize they're secret pen-pal amours. In a giddy rush, these unwitting lovers have "Where's My Shoe?," "Vanilla Ice Cream" and the title tune -- three brilliant exemplars of romantic comedy in song that could be taught in any musical-theater workshop. But these come roughly two hours in, after a long first act sets up the premise with the ploddingly expository "I Don't Know His Name" and the profoundly generic "Will He Like Me?"


Musical Theatre West's faultless, well-cast new production, directed by Jamie Rocco, plays to the show's strengths. With William Forrester's painterly set and crisp costumes by Todd K. Proto, the production has a music-box spring in its step. In the lead romantic roles, John Bisom and Teri Bibb make an attractive screwball pair. The show's generous character parts are fully realized by bottle-blond Christina Saffran Ashford, suavely unseemly Stan Chandler, sidekicky Ira Denmark and fusty Nils Anderson. A crack chorus bustles winningly.


Still, too much of "She Loves Me" -- adapted from the same play that inspired the films "The Shop Around the Corner" and "You've Got Mail" -- renders an irresistible romance remarkably resistible.

-- Rob Kendt


"She Loves Me," Musical Theatre West at the Carpenter Performing Arts Center, 6200 Atherton St., Long Beach. 8 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays, 2 p.m. Saturdays-Sundays (also 7 p.m. Nov. 14). Ends Nov 21. $20 to $47. (562) 856-1999, Ext. 4. Running time: 2 hours, 20 minutes.