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She Loves Me (Chichester)

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
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She Loves Me draws on one of the oldest plots in the book – the couple at war with each other but who are in love with each other. This particular take on the story has a cinematic history being filmed as the classic Little Shop on the Corner and the execrable You've Got Mail.

The musical version dates from 1963 and, while Jerry Bock did not supply any outstanding musical numbers, has a pleasant enough score with some witty lyrics courtesy of Sheldon Harnick.

Stephen Mear's production certainly rattles along and contains two wonderfully staged routines, a Christmas shopping showpiece and a decadent nightclub scene (although I did wonder whether such a venue was the sort of place a shy, inexperienced couple would meet). But Mear, who is also the choreographer, doesn't appear to have quite decided where the show is set: it has a recognisable Mittel-Europa atmosphere, thanks to Anthony Ward.s charming design, but the characters speak in American accents but use English money.

But neither of the two central characters works for me: Dianne Pilkington is a little too self-assured to capture the vulnerability of Amalia – and her singing verges on the shrill, rendering several of her lines unintelligible. Joe McFadden is slightly more believable as Georg but his singing voice, while pleasant, is not outstanding.

There are some better performances from the supporting cast: Stephen Elias convinces as the somewhat oafish sales clerk in fear of losing his job, Matthew Goodgame is a fine Clark Gable-lookalike lothario and there's a delightful cameo from Lee Ormsby as a louche head waiter.

The standout performance though is from Annette McLaughlin as the much put-upon Ilona, who eventually finds an unlikely love in the library.

Chichester has given some fine musical productions in recent years: this isn't one of them but there's still plenty of entertainment in it and reminds us that sometimes the oldest stories are the best.

- Maxwell Cooter


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