‘She Loves Me’ celebrates following instinct

The semester’s last Jerry Herman Ring Theater production, She Loves Me, a musical about love and its whims in a parfumerie in the 1950’s floats as sweetly as the lofty, pink scents that the store promises its snobby, Parisian customers.

In the musical, one of the store’s salesmen exchanges love letters with a correspondent, who is unknowingly the girl he loathes.

Every element in the show serves to enchant in this delightful romantic comedy that inspired the Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan movie You’ve Got Mail. Like the modern adaptation borrows, the line between loathing and loving is a very fine one, which anonymous correspondence can easily erase.

This cute storyline is perfectly communicated thanks to the spot-on casting and whole-hearted acting. From the multiple song-endings that require comically long, breath-squeezing note holds, to the effervescent body language, the actors hold nothing back. Some actresses even pull off bravely acrobatic moves to reveal 20th century stocking-strapping panties. Scandalous!

Though not set in a ring setting, the warm proximity to the stage is preserved, as the audience seating area is arranged in a tight semi circle, with a small orchestra pit, that fits a trio of piano, bass and violin. The pianist faces the action, simultaneously observing, playing and orchestrating to synchronize the auditory to the visual. This vicinity accentuates the immersive quality.

Thanks to the intimate stage, the characters’ rich expressions flood the small space, spilling onto the audience. Especially in the scenes that have about a dozen performers on stage at once, the vivaciousness of the acting and the costumes makes for an exciting density that does not diminish the effervescence.

With their lace and chiffon rose-printed dresses, and suit and plaid stockings suits, the costumes are the envy of any vintage closet.

The musical even indulges in a few intentionally cheesy moments, such as when ceiling props quickly change from fall to winter, provoking an “Oh look, it’s fall!” line immediately followed by an  “Oh look, it’s winter!” reaction. Other special effects opt for a more romantic effect, such as the enchantingly executed snow, quietly falling behind a transparent cloth wall.

The message of the story is one that college students can relate to, since while some characters stress the importance of following the status quo to keep a job, the two main characters act instinctively, preferring to sacrifice the now to dream for the future.

These charming qualities make this play a worthy celebration of the upcoming change of season as well as the celebration of following your gut.