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'She Loves Me': The 80 Year Theatre Journey
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'She Loves Me': The 80 Year Theatre Journey

Picture of Sarah Lamb
Updated: 9 January 2017
This week She Loves Me returns to London for the first time since 2012, but the play’s history is much older than that. From Hungary to New York and beyond this little show has come a long way to be with us. Starring Britain’s Got Talent finalist Charlotte Jaconelli, this cosy production sits snugly in Clapham’s intimate Landor Theatre.
Charlotte Jaconelli and John Sandberg as Amalia Balash and Georg Nowack in She Loves Me
Charlotte Jaconelli and John Sandberg in She Loves Me at the Landor Theatre. Image courtesy of Darren Bell

In 1937, on the outskirts of Budapest’s Jewish Quarter, one of the world’s best loved stories was born. Illatszertár, or The Parfumerie, was written by the young Hungarian playwright Miklós László and went on to inspire a whole host of adaptations including the 1940 motion picture The Shop Around The Corner, the 1949 musical film In The Good Old Summertime, the Broadway and West End hit musical She Loves Me and, perhaps the most well-known, the 1998 romcom blockbuster You’ve Got Mail.

While the particular details of each adaptation vary, the storyline remains the same: a man and a woman meet through their work and are instantly, passionately repelled by each other. Little does either of them suspect that the person they so hate is, in fact, the mystery correspondent with whom they have been falling in love.

The Landor Theatre in Clapham is the latest venue to host the musical theatre adaptation She Loves Me, more than 50 years after its Broadway premiere. The show was written by Joe Masteroff (who went on to write the film Cabaret) with music and lyrics by Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harnick (the pair behind Fiddler on the Roof), but despite a talented creative team and a Grammy award, the show was not the runaway box office success everyone had hoped for. It wasn’t until the early 1990s that revivals on Broadway and the West End catapulted the show into the spotlight. And this spring the show has returned to London.

The set from a 2006 production of She Loves Me | © Coachman76/Wikimedia Commons
The set from a 2006 production of She Loves Me | © Coachman76/Wikimedia Commons

The Landor’s current production is directed by Robert McWhir, who has been the Artistic Director at the theatre for the past 13 years. McWhir has worked hard to earn the theatre a strong reputation for high quality work, and while he specialises in the development of new writing he certainly doesn’t shy away from reviving well-known classics.

For this production McWhir has pulled together a young and talented cast from across the UK and beyond to bring new life to an old show. The leading lady is Britain’s Got Talent 2012 finalist Charlotte Jaconelli, a trained musical theatre actress with a beautiful voice and simply stunning range. At the tender age of 19 Charlotte has already achieved two gold-certified albums with her singing partner Jonathan Antoine, and last summer went on to release her first solo album Solitaire. She Loves Me is Charlotte’s theatrical debut and she brings to the role not only her voice but also a subtle balance of feistiness and vulnerability which is perfect for the role.

Charlotte is joined onstage by love interest Mr Nowack (played by John Sandberg) and a whole host of characters who work in the Perfumery. Some audience favourites were Sandberg’s joyfully exuberant performance of the title song, Ian Dring as the indescribably camp waiter at the Café Imperiale, and pretty much every scene where Joshua LeClair’s Arpad was on stage. Emily Lynne’s wry portrayal of a young woman in love with the wrong man was particularly touching.

By placing such a young cast (and a 21st century television star) in the traditional setting of the 1930s Budapest perfumery, McWhir has beautifully encapsulated the heritage and the universality of the play.

She Loves Me is running until 7th March 2015 at the Landor Theatre

The Landor Theatre, 70 Landor Road, SW9 9PH, London, UK, +44 20 7737 7276