Thespians prepare to make fans fall in Love

Dec. 31, 1969, 7 p.m. | By Sally Colwell | 51 years ago

When she first saw it, she was enchanted. "I thought it was so sweet and cute," she says. Drama teacher Kelly Newman is talking about her new baby, Blair's spring musical "She Loves Me," which opens tonight at 7:30.

The show, which is based on the Jimmy Stuart movie "The Shop Around the Corner" ("You've got Mail" of 1998 tells a similar tale), is a romantic comedy set in Budapest, Hungary, during the worldwide depression of the 1930s.

She loves me, then loves me not

The heroine, Amalia Balash, played by senior Jennifer Kramer in some productions and by senior Irene Liu in others, is the slightly smug new employee at the Chaperone Corner, a parfumerie where hero Georg Nowak (junior Cory Choy) is the manager.

Others in the colorful cast include Arpad Laszlo (junior Griffith Rees), the delivery boy eager to become a clerk, Steven Koday (junior Spencer Lee), the seedy but seductive ladies' man and Ilona Ritter (senior Nanacy Ku in one cast and senior Tarina Szemszo in another), who keeps getting left heartbroken by Steven.

No one at the shop seems to get along, especially not Amalia and Georg, who fight constantly and just plain can't stand each other. But the two are exchanging passionate but anonymous love letters, oblivious to the fact that they actually know (and hate) each other in real life. When the feuding lovers finally decide through their letters to meet, Georg sees Amalia waiting and realizes that she must be is his secret pen pal. He tries to make conversation, but she thinks he will scare away her mysterious "dear friend" and yells at him to leave. They fall into hard times, but not to worry, as this is a comedy after all, leaving happily-ever-after as the inevitable outcome. The story is chock full of songs which seem to pop up at the most unexpected times, all set to music which is on the whole upbeat and eclectic.

Small but fierce

"She Loves Me," according to Newman, usually has a very small cast, about 20 people, but she upped it to 50 to accommodate the many thespians who wanted to participate. "When you have 100 kids try out, you want to use as many as you can," she says. The female parts have been double-cast to allow more people to have major roles.

Newman says that the musical has been a little challenging since it includes only a few main characters and a chorus. Still, sophomore Amina Baird, who plays one of the shoppers at the parfumerie, says the number of minor characters keep the major roles from taking over. "There are lead roles, then little cameo roles that are really fun. It spreads out the talent more," she says.

Another challenge is the elaborate set, which will be the first fully rotating one for a Blair production. This allows for outdoor scenes to switch smoothly to indoors without having to interrupt the action. However, movement like this makes blocking the scenes (deciding exactly how, where and when the actors will move) more complicated.

Master thespians and more

Choy landed the part of Georg despite his relative inexperience in plays or musicals at Blair. "This is really the only big role I've ever had," he admits.

So far he says the experience has been very educational. "I'm learning a lot about acting: like everything," he says. Choy adds that he has been enjoying working with the cast. "We've got some really great, really talented people in the show," he says.

Junior Ben Bontempo and senior Shira Kahan assisted Newman in directing the play. This means taking care of everything from deciding on prop placement in every scene to taking attendance to manning the publicity. Bontempo and Kahan, who has had numerous leading roles in past Blair plays, also give fine-tuning tips to the actors, which all adds up to a lot of work.

Bontempo, who was also an actor before he decided to try directing, says that his job allows him to experience more than one area of show business. "It's a chance to be in other aspects of theatre," he says. "[Directing and acting] are both interpretive but in different ways."

"She Loves Me" may not be the kind of gala event Blair has become accustomed to in past musicals such as "Hello Dolly" but less fanfare and a more intimate setting often makes for more humor and for a more enjoyable experience overall.

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Sally Colwell. Sally Colwell is co-centerspread editor and is tremendously excited to be on paper this year. In her free time she enjoys reading novels, drawing, not practicing the violin and attending demolition derbies. During the summer she is a counselor at Burgundy Center for Wildlife Studies … More »

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