Just in time for Valentine’s Day, the UConn Opera performed the charming romantic comedy musical “She Loves Me” at the Jorgensen Center for Performing Arts Friday. A talented cast portrayed the story of two parfumerie clerks who are in love with their anonymous pen pals but who don’t realize that their pen pals are really each other.
The two clerks, Georg (played by Doctorate of Music Arts candidate Spencer Reese) and Amalia (played by Doctorate of Music Arts candidate Lisa Williamson), write letters to “Dear Friend” over the course of several months in the 1930s. When it comes time for the pen pals to meet, however, things get a little complicated. Georg realizes that Amalia is his “Dear Friend” and then doesn’t want to admit to her that he is her “Dear Friend” because of their constant quarreling at work. Though they sit down together in a cafe, the two get into another fight, and, after some mean-spirited remarks are made, Georg leaves.
Amalia feels bad about her comments to Georg and is upset that she never met “Dear Friend.” Hearing that she is sick, Georg visits her with vanilla ice cream and assurances that “Dear Friend” will write again. Georg’s kind act and Amalia’s reception of Georg’s apology open up a new chapter for them: Georg realizes that he truly loves Amalia, and Amalia discovers tender new feelings toward Georg.
On Christmas Eve, Amalia invites Georg to dinner with her family, telling him that “Dear Friend” will be there. Georg then finally reveals the truth, reciting out loud one of Amalia’s letters to him. Amalia expresses her happiness that Georg was her correspondent all along, and the two realize that they are meant to be together.
The overall plot was sweet and funny, and the big cast of characters added some other fun perspectives to Amalia and Georg’s story. Several characters, including the shop boy Arpad (played by Luke Powers) and the bumbling clerk Sipos (played by Emanuel A. Cruz), provided comic relief throughout Georg and Amalia’s feud. Meanwhile, the story of the sassy Ms. Ritter (played by Shelley Roberts) triumphing over her unfaithful former lover Kodaly (played by Arthur Beutel) gave the audience someone to root for. Most of all, audience members liked the old-fashioned love story and the nostalgia of Georg and Amalia’s letter-writing.
“I thought it was a pretty romantic musical because nowadays nobody reads letters, it’s always on Tinder or online, so it brought me back to what I thought meeting somebody not over the internet would be like,” civil engineering graduate student Stephen Michna said.
While the main plot was endearing, the entire musical played on a variety of emotions. There was anxiety as the audience waited for Georg and Amalia to get together, and then relief and cheer when they finally did. When Mr. Maraczek attempted suicide and then the scene quickly changed, there was tension and suspense.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, there was humor when Arpad threw leaves or “snow” in the air to symbolize the changing seasons and then announced “Look! Autumn!” and “Look! Winter!”
Though the opera incorporated such a wide range of emotions, the performers gracefully navigated the changes in tone. Spencer Reese, who plays Georg, described in a pre-recorded interview how the performers managed the many emotional transitions.
“As an actor it can be really tricky to maneuver such a wide gamut of emotions in such a short period of time, but having such a supportive, energetic, thoughtful cast really makes it fun and rewarding,” Reese said.
Overall, the audience enjoyed the musical and considered it to be a sweet story.
“I’ll say heartwarming” tenth-semester civil engineering major Genevieve Rigler said when asked how she would describe “She Loves Me.”
“I thought it was an enjoyable musical,” Michna agreed.
Stephanie Santillo is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.