SHE LOVES ME Is a Delightful Holiday Romp 

Review by Mira Temkin; photo by North Shore Camera Club 

As soon as you enter the theatre, you’ll notice the beautiful set design in gorgeous pastelsthat represents the Maraczek Perfumery in Budapest, Hungary in 1937. This is just the beginning of a beautiful production that weaves a spell around the beloved musical, She Loves Me, written by Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harnick a year before Fiddler on the Roof. 

Matthew Silar expertly directs an all-star cast at a dizzying pace and more gently when it needs to be. Silar returns to the Citadel on the heels of his well-received Little Shop of Horrors in 2022. 

She Loves Me tells the story of two quarreling co-workers in a Budapest perfume store. Behind the scenes, they are anonymous pen pals who have never met, but through their letters, they have fallen in love. What will happen when they discover the truth? Sparks may fly…or fists may fly. 

If the story sounds familiar, that’s because it’s been made into several films like The Shop Around the Corner, In The Good Old Summertime and more recently, You’ve Got Mail. 

The stellar cast is impressive with credits at many Chicago area Equity-affiliated musical theaters. The anonymous pen pals are Hannah Louise Fernandes as Amalia Balash and Travis Ascione as Georg Nowack. Fernandes appeared as Cinderella in Paramount Theatre’s Into the Woods in 2023. Ascione played Picasso in Citadel’s Picasso at the Lapin Agile.  

Other cast members include Jeffrey Charles as the two-timing shop salesman Steven Kodaly who’s got lots of secrets. Kodaly’s secret gal pal Ilona Ritter is played by Kaitlin Feely, who has a gorgeous voice and comedic chops. The complex owner of the perfumery, Mr. Maraczek is played by Geoff Isaac, last seen at Citadel in Light Up The Sky. Also in the cast are Darian Goulding as co-worker Ladislav Sipos, Brody Tyner as eager assistant Arpad Laszlo, Laura Brennan, Jake Busse, Jill Iverson, Abbey Loria, Trey Mendlik, Natalie Stahl, and Adam Thatcher.

Citadel Founders Scott and Ellen Phelps serve as Production Managers. 

Look for the live orchestra on the stage under the Music Director David Zizic which adds to the intimacy of the performance. Kudos to set designer Jeff Award-winner Eric Luchen for his innovative and imaginative sets that rotate from the shop to a bedroom and more and to costume designer Danielle Reinhardt for her beautiful, rich, period-design costumes. 

A real surprise came to me late in the first act. We first see Jake Busse as a mild-mannered private detective, telling Mr. Maraczek what he discovered. The next minute he plays a waiter at the Café. 

She Loves Me is now playing at the Citadel Theatre through December 17. 

Performance times vary. Ticket prices start at $40. Call for students, seniors, and groups, 847-735-8554, ext. 1. Citadel Theatre is located in the West Campus building of the Lake Forest School District, 300 S. Waukegan Rd., Lake Forest, IL. To reserve tickets, call the Citadel Theatre Box Office or go online at www.citadeltheatre.org.  For more Chicago Reviews or show information, see chicagoonstage.com or theatreinchicago.com. 

Highly recommended

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