She Loves Me, Circle Theatre. Elegantly crafted and melodically irresistible, the 1963 She Loves Me deserves its many devotees. Based on Miklos Laszlo's perfectly constructed comedy, it's set in 1934 and depicts Amalia and Georg, two quarreling clerks in a Budapest perfume store who, unbeknownst to each other, are secret correspondents who've fallen in love. (Sound familiar? The play's most recent update was the film You've Got Mail.) Intelligent and compassionate, Joe Masteroff's witty book inspires Sheldon Harnick and Jerry Bock's rich score.
This gem is perfect for Circle Theatre's less-is-more magic. Bob Knuth directs and designs to perfection: a storefront facade opens to reveal a jewel-box parfumerie, then Amalia's dainty bedroom. The performances are as exquisite as the set. As man-crazy but men-hating Ilona, Laura Stuart Obenauf delivers her emancipation anthem "I Resolve" with guts and her tour de force "Trip to the Library" with glory. Bil Ingraham effaces himself well as a toady clerk. And Brandon Dahlquist as the womanizing Kodaly hurls himself into the vaudeville romp "Grand Knowing You." Kevin Bellie's knockout choreography turns "Twelve Days to Christmas" into a high-kicking catalog of every holiday cliche from soup to nutcrackers.
Captivatingly ordinary, the unwitting lovers are this staging's signal triumph. Jeff Goumas's goofy Georg may be better in song than in speech, yet even his stiffness is beguilingly real. And Brooke Sherrod's heart-hungry Amalia is completely right.