MANOA VALLEY THEATRE
Pedro Haro and Kirsten Dixon play Georg and Amalia, coworkers in a perfume shop who offer each other little more than animosity, while each bears their soul to a treasured pen pal, in Manoa Valley Theatre's production of "She Loves Me." Dixon is especially captivating in the play.
Actress delivers a show- stealing performance
Seeing as many Hawaii residents probably couldn't find Hungary on a map, it's fortunate indeed that no knowledge of that nation's history or culture is necessary to enjoy the quiet humor and gentle love story in "She Loves Me."
'She Loves Me'
On stage: 7:30 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday, 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 4 p.m. Sunday, through March 11
Place: Manoa Valley Theatre, 2833 East Manoa Valley Road
Tickets: $30; $25 seniors and military; $15 ages 25 and younger
Call: 988-6131 or online at manoavalleytheatre.com
The show is a musical adaptation of a play written in the mid-1930s by Hungarian playwright Miklos Laszlo, but although the characters' names suggest a mid-European setting, the story could just as easily be set in Paris, London or almost anywhere in the United States.
Amalia and Georg, who work together at a high-end perfume shop and can't stand each other, both have pen pals that they bare their souls to. Guess who those anonymous pen pals are!
The movie "You've Got Mail" recycled the story line in 1998, starring Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks -- with e-mail replacing "snail mail."
Pedro Armado Haro (Georg) and Kirsten Dixon (Amalia) mesh convincingly as the unknowing soul mates in this revival of the 1963 musical version of Laszlo's story. Haro seems a natural playing a gentle and somewhat introspective man who must overcome his shyness in order to succeed -- romantically and professionally.
Dixon is so perfect as Amalia that it's hard to believe she was brought in two days before the show opened to replace the woman originally cast in the role. Although Dixon was still "on book" for two or three scenes on opening night, she was superb -- and in character throughout.
She shows a hint of Mary Tyler Moore in an early scene where Amalia secures employment by proving herself a resourceful saleswoman, and perhaps a hint or two of Ryan elsewhere. That's all to the good in a role like this one.
The songs are serviceable rather than memorable, but Dixon steals the show with well-rounded renditions of "No More Candy" and "Will He Like Me?" in Act 1. She shows her comic side performing with Haro in "Where's My Shoe?" in Act 2, then makes "She Loves Me" a dramatic highlight.
The supporting roles are also well played. There's local stage veteran Jim Tharp (Mr. Maraczek) as the crusty but vulnerable shop owner, Justin Hashimoto (Arpad Laszlo) as the delivery boy who dreams of being promoted to shop clerk, multitalented Elitei Tatafu Jr. (Steven Kodaly) as a dashing and promiscuous clerk, and Katie Beth Hicks (Ritter) as Kodaly's in-store love interest.
Each secondary character gets at least one showcase number and makes the most of it. Hashimoto opens Act 2 on an engaging and energetic note with "Try Me," Hicks displays her talents as a singing comedienne with "A Trip to the Library" and Tatafu proves himself once again a talented song-and-dance man with "Grand Knowing You."
Director/choreographer John Rampage makes full use of Tatafu's talents as a singer, dancer, actor and comedian in making Kodaly's exit a show-stopping "hana hou" moment.
James Santos also contributes to the show's success with his wildly over-the-top portrayal of a flamboyant waiter Amalia encounters while waiting to meet her pen pal. Santos' exaggerated performance adds welcome comic elements to a scene that could otherwise be a heartbreaker.
Lorena Jones (costumes) gives the show and its characters an appropriate mid-1930s look. Justin DeLand (set) provides a solid and substantial scene of the interior and exterior of the shop, and works with Sara Ward (props) in providing just enough in the way of chairs, beds and assorted other items to suggest the other locales where the action takes place.