“She Loves Me,” the Jerry Bock (music) and Sheldon Harnick (lyrics) musical, was first produced on Broadway in 1963. In The New York Times Howard Taubman wrote in his review of Hal Prince’s original production that this was “a bonbon of a musical…it should delight who knows how many a sweet tooth.” He concluded, “if you are allergic to sugary confections…stay away from ‘She Loves Me. But don’t lose any sleep over your defection; there will be a multitude of happy sentimentalists to take your place.”
Happily and despite the vast societal changes since that original production many sentimentalists still exist as evidenced by the successful most recent revival as produced by Roundabout Theatre. “Bewitching…as sweet and charming as a first kiss,” wrote Joe Dziemianowicz, theatre critic of The Daily News. That enchanting production is lovingly captured on the Original Broadway Revival Cast Recording, available directly from Sh-K-Boom.
Many musical theatre experts agree that “She Loves Me” is as near-to a perfect musical as one can get to such a thing. In this ensemble piece, the book clearly identifies the characters, each character has their own musical moment center-stage and the music and lyrics are superbly married and matched. Time has lovingly caressed this gem of a musical evidenced on this exquisite recording.
On stage every element of this production was heightened and highly polished, each complimenting the other without being overpowering. The production was pure infinite joy.
This recording is also pure joy in many ways as well. The performances preserved on this shimmering recording are just a pleasure to hear again and again. To my ears, however, the recording brings forward some creative balances which are not quite in alignment and were not apparent on stage.
Laura Benanti glows with warmth whenever I’ve seen her in performance. That comes across in her soprano except when as Amalia she ventures into some of the higher registers, for example in “Dear Friend.” It’s then when her voice can occasionally sound hooty to me, however her tremolo grabs my heart and doesn’t let go. Nicholas Barasch as Arpad was comically endearing on stage. On the recording however his earnestness is overpowered by his hamminess. I also find that the musicians are punched up on some tracks leaving the vocal performances not quite at the center of one’s attention as I believe they should be. I’m not sure why the tempos are faster on this revival recording than those on the 1963 Original Broadway Cast Recording. Still, Ms. Benanti, Zachary Levi, Jane Krakowski, Gavin Creel and the entire cast are quite winning.
For those to whom frothy, lyrical sweetness remains a joy to savor the folks at Sh-K-Boom have given us this delectable recording of the 2016 Broadway Revival. It’s one you’ll play many times and I’ll venture to say will always sound fresh.