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Theatre / She Loves Me

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She Loves Me is a 1963 Broadway musical written by Joe Masteroff, Sheldon Harnick, and Jerry Bock. It is based on Miklós László's 1937 Hungarian play Parfumerie, the same source material used for the films The Shop Around the Corner, In the Good Old Summertime and You've Got Mail.

Set in a small Budapest parfumerie in the 1930s, the story centers around the relationship of shop clerk Georg Novak and his "Dear Friend," the woman with whom he has been anonymously corresponding. Shortly after the curtain rises, Maraczek's Parfumerie gains a new clerk, a young woman named Amalia Balash. When Georg and Amalia meet, it's antagonism at first sight. What neither knows is that they are each other's secret penpal love.

The musical provides examples of

  • Adaptation Title Change: She Loves Me is adapted from the play Parfumerie.
  • Belligerent Sexual Tension: Georg and Amalia, which is something that the other clerks lampshade.
  • Beta Couple: Ilona and Kodaly, until it's revealed he's a "rat". She ends up dating an optometrist whom she met at the library and who loves to read to her.
  • The Big Damn Kiss:
    • One occurs between Kodaly and Ilona, which Kodaly then ruins by announcing he's going on a date with someone else.
    • At the end, Amalia and Georg have one when he reveals himself as "Dear Friend".
  • Book Ends: At the beginning of the play Mr. Maraczek jokes that Georg should be going out and having fun at a cabaret while he's single. At the end of the play he takes Arpad out to a cabaret since they're both single men.
  • Brain Bleach: This is Georg's reaction when Mr. Maraczek tells him that Kodaly was having an affair with Mrs. M.
  • Brick Joke: Towards the end of the first act, Mr. Maraczek reveals to a private investigator that he got an anonymous letter saying that one of his clerks was having an affair with his wife. In the second act, the "idiot clerk" Sipos confesses to Georg that he wrote the letter in the hopes that Kodaly instead of him would get fired.
  • …But He Sounds Handsome: Inverted; Georg says that the "Dear Friend" that he met and who had to leave town is "well-fed" and middle-aged. Amalia is horrified to think that her penpal may be "fat" and "bald" and accidentally writes it in a letter to him, which she proceeds to toss.
  • Cannot Spit It Out: After realizing that Amalia is his pen pal, Georg has a hard time telling her that he's the "Dear Friend."
  • Devil in Plain Sight: The clerk Kodaly who has been having an affair with the boss's wife.
  • Dramatic Irony: "Three Letters" reveals to the audience that Georg and Amalia are in love with each other while the characters are still oblivious.
  • Everyone Has Standards: While fighting with her, Georg yells at the maitre'd for not treating Amalia like a lady.
  • Evil Sounds Deep: Inverted. Kodaly is the most reprehensible character in the show and has a tenor voice.
  • Falling-in-Love Montage: In an unconventional version, vignettes during "Twelve Days to Christmas" show Georg and Amalia growing closer.
  • Fictional Currency: Instead of the pengo of 100 filler, or even the dollar of 100 cents (as one might have expected from American writers), the currency is the shilling of 12 pence. This is based on the currency then in use in Great Britain and the Commonwealth, although in those countries 20 shillings comprised a pound (the principal unit of money) while in the play the shilling is the largest unit of currency.
  • Funny Background Event: Georg's face as the waiter scolds Amalia and her "husband" for arguing at the Café Imperiale. Absolutely hysterical.
  • Happy Dance: Georg does one after his Pet the Dog moment with Amalia, complete with a cartwheel, after his Love Epiphany.
  • Hypercompetent Sidekick:
    • Arpad as a bicycle delivery boy and as a clerk.
    • Georg is also shown to be quite good at his job, once Mr. Maraczek has him run the place in his absence, he does just as good a job as his boss.
    • Amalia is shown to be a fantastic saleswoman in her first scene, where she manages to spin a cigarette box that nobody wants into a candy box that becomes a major seller.
  • I Have This Friend: In a variant, during the song "Tango Tragique," Georg tells Amalia a story about a made-up friend who met a man she'd met through letters and ended up missing.
  • The Ingenue: Amalia is a sweet, innocent young woman and romantic at heart. The fact that she's a soprano only makes it clearer.
  • Interrupted Suicide: Arpad saves Mr. Maraczek when the latter shoots himself thinking he was alone at the shop.
  • Jerkass Ball:
    • Mr. Maraczek is actually a pretty Nice Guy at first, but after the beginning of the show, he starts to act like a major Jerkass to Georg. This is later explained by him believing Georg was having an affair with his wife. He drops this ball once he has a Jerkass Realization as detailed below.
    • Georg is a similar case. A Nice Guy to everyone except Amalia, but he has his own Jerkass Realization, and after it he becomes quite a romantic gentleman to her.
    • Because of Georg's unpleasantness to her, Amalia often responds in kind, though she overall comes across as the more civil of the two, and once Georg shows her genuine kindness, she's nothing but friendly to him.
  • Jerkass Realization:
    • Mr. Maraczek when he learns that Kodaly, not Georg, was having an affair with his wife.
    • Likewise Georg after visiting Mr. Maraczek in the hospital and realizing Amalia wasn't causing the tension in the shop.
  • Large Ham: This being a musical comedy, you can definitely expect this.
    • The maître d' at the cafe stands out as by far the hammiest character in the show, with his over-the-top antics bringing many laughs.
    • Georg and Amalia can both have their moments, but their ecstatic demeanors during "She Loves Me" and "Vanilla Ice Cream" often result in this.
    • Kodaly being such a Smug Snake can very easily be played this way, with his performances of "Ilona" and "Grand Knowing You" certainly applying.
    • Ilona's fiery performance of "I Resolve" can be this, though of a more serious variety.
  • Love Before First Sight: The entire plot of the show, at least between Georg and Amalia.
  • Love Epiphany: Georg in the title song.
  • Mood Whiplash: After Maraczek attempts to kill himself, the next number is a humorous crowd song.
  • Never My Fault: Kodaly when he's busted for the affair with Mrs. Maraczek and fired.
  • Oh, Crap!: One from the entire ensemble in "Twelve Days to Christmas" upon realizing it's Christmas Eve and they still haven't done their Christmas shopping.
  • Pet the Dog: Following his visit to Mr. M in the hospital, Georg goes to check on Amalia, apologizes to her for being a boor the previous night, tells her that her Dear Friend showed up, and buys her ice cream. This breaks the ice between them and leads to his Love Epiphany.
  • Quitting to Get Married: At the start of her show, Ilona expresses her dissatisfaction with her job and her desire to marry out of it, but she hasn't found the right man yet. Georg also wishes this on Amalia just before entering his 10-Minute Retirement because he finds her intolerable as a co-worker.
  • Right for the Wrong Reasons: Georg is right that things haven't been the same since Amalia got hired. It's not because of her, though; it's because Mr. Maraczek had suspected George of having an affair with his wife.
  • Sidekick Song:
    • Sipos acts as George's wing man and friend throughout, and gets his solo imparting knowledge appropriately titled "Perspective".
    • Arpad, being the young, unproven member of the store, gets the number "Try Me", where he asserts his usefulness.
  • The Immodest Orgasm: Throughout nearly the entirety of "Ilona".
  • Tenor Boy:
    • While his music isn't too high, Arpad's sweet and well-meaning nature goes quite nicely with his tenor voice.
    • Georg is a subversion as in terms of characterization he fits this mold, but his voice is on the baritone spectrum instead.
  • Twice Shy: Once their relationship has substantially improved, Amalia and Georg both admit that they were attracted to each other during their first meeting before their relationship turned sour. Amalia, prepared to meet "Dear Friend" that night, then laments that they didn't make their feelings clear sooner, at which point Georg reveals himself to be "Dear Friend".
  • Unseen Pen Pal: Amalia sings in "If I Knew His Name" that she doesn't need to see her love in person to know him—a claim which gets contested throughout the rest of the musical. In contrast, her friend Ilona at first protests the idea of love without physicality, but she realizes physical attraction alone often gets her into trouble, and learns to see beyond the surface.
    I don't need to see his handsome profile.
    I don't need to see his manly frame.
    All I need to know is in each letter,
    Each long revealing letter.
    I couldn't know him better
    If I knew his name.
  • Villain Song: Kodaly's farewell is a rather magnificent one.
  • Villain Love Song: "Ilona"
  • You Know What You Did: Mr. Maraczek starts the play by bullying Georg for months without telling him why. Then it's revealed that he has suspected Georg of having an affair with his wife, after receiving an anonymous letter. Following the revelation that it was Kodaly having the affair, Mr. M tries to shoot himself and in the hospital apologizes for Georg for judging him so poorly.