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Love Rendered

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She Loves Me
Feb. 21-24, Mar. 1-3 • 8 p.m.
Sunday matinees, 3 p.m. • $23-$25
Thalian Hall, 310 Chestnut St.

theatrep25Know the gut feeling after meeting someone and ably assessing a budding friendship is the last thing that’s going to happen between each of you? And so you “pretend you’re talking on the phone and walk faster” when passing them? Avoidance is great, but sometimes love will get the best of us anyways.This week the Opera House Theatre Company will be producing “She Loves Me,” a musical following two people, who at first don’t hit it off, but decidedly fall in love anyways.

Based off of playwright Miklós Laiszló’s “Parfumerie,” the work has been widely accepted and transformed into a variety of mediums, including rom-coms like “The Shop Around the Corner,” “In the Good Old Summertime” and “You’ve Got Mail.” However, its Broadway counterpart has been adopted and produced by Joe Masteroff, nominated for Best Musical Tony in 1964 and Revival of a Musical in 1994, as well as winning the Laurence Olivier Award in 1995. With the help of composer Jerry Bock—seven-time Tony winner—the show hits its stride not just as an unlikely love story leaving us rooting for the underdog, but one that remains timeless.

encore spoke with Opera House Theatre Company director Ray Kennedy, who will officially make his mark on Laszlo’s work this week, as “She Loves Me” opens Thursday at Thalian Hall.

encore (e): The storyline has been taken in so many successful directions since its publication. How are you ensuring the cast is going to live up to the reputation of ‘She Loves Me’?
Ray Kennedy (RK): We have a very strong talent pool in Wilmington—people that have been in soap operas, Broadway, movies; so I had a lot of talent to choose from. [Cast players include well-known names like Caitlin Becka, Tré Cotten, Dan Morris, JJ Niemann and Bob Workmon.]

e: What do you find most appealing about the show and what makes it better as a musical?
RK: A musical is just a different way of telling a story. They are tried and true writers that have a great track record. In our protagonist Amalia’s (Alyssa Dunaway) case, we learn a lot more of her vulnerability through her song than through her words. You also learn more about the plot; the music isn’t just there to be pretty.

e: Why “She Loves Me”—anything to do with the Valentine’s atmosphere?
RK: It’s been on my bucket-list for about 15 years. I love the music, story and how it is old-fashioned. I asked if we could consider doing this in February, and in December it just happened that Manti Te’o, the Notre Dame Football player, fell in love through texts and other electronics. Art imitates life. Here we have a young man falling in love without seeing the person. This is the modern example of how our story can happen in real life. ‘She Loves Me’ works for us because we are a smaller musical of 18 cast members and it was the perfect time.

e: Do you feel that it brings a certain timelessness about it, and if so how will you preserve that?
RK: The storyline is timeless, as it has just happened recently (Manti Te’o). The idea of love letters and pen pals has been around a long time. The musical was set in 1930, and when you see the stage, set, costumes, music—you will be in that era. You know you’re not in 2013; you’re in a time period and that puts the audience in the place they need to be.

e: It is hard to believe that two people who despise each other end up falling in love. How do Dylan Fowler (as Georg Nowack) and Alyssa Dunaway (as Amalia Balash) sell the performance?
RK: It is really an example of two people getting off on the wrong foot to begin with. Despise is too hard of a word. Because of other things that are going on in a shop, there are inter-shop politics.

There’s another storyline going on here where there is tension in the shop and then there is tension in their relationship. It all plays a part of something else going on. Along with that my cast does not lack talent, as the audience will see.

e: Have there been any major changes to your rendition of the musical or will you be keeping the 1930s costumes, music, design and overall feel?
RK: No changes. I believe that because the music is written in and the plot takes place in Hungary, it has an old-world European feel. I think it is exactly right and did not make any changes; I couldn’t because it has such a strong story.

e: What can we expect about the costumes and the set?
RK: They will be as close to the period as possible. Beautiful 1930s draped dresses and suits—formal in a way. The set is a lovely perfume shop in Hungary and most of the action takes place inside or outside the shop.

e: What challenges came with building the set?
RK: Any time you do a set that is very much a period-set, there’s a challenge to make it correct. We can’t have props that are modern, and since we are heavy in props, we can’t show up with plastic bottles for a Hungarian perfume shop; everything must be glass!

e: What about the musical is going to “wow” the audience the most?
RK: The music is magnificent; we have some very, very good singers. It is definitely a singers/actors musical. The audience will be very invested in the story. It has a strong story and strong script. And the fact that this love story can be more realistic than fantasy, as people might have otherwise thought.

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Encore Magazine regularly covers topics pertaining to news, arts, entertainment, food, and city life in Wilmington. It also maintains schedules and listings of local events like concerts, festivals, live performance art and think-tank events. Encore Magazine is an entity of H&P Media, which also powers Wilmington’s local ticketing platform, Print and online editions are updated every Wednesday.

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