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She Loves Me review at the Menier Chocolate Factory, London – ‘exquisitely realised’

Scarlett Strallen in She Loves Me at the Menier Chocolate Factory. Photo: Tristram Kenton

A scintillating and delightful revival of the 1963 Broadway musical She Loves Me ends a triumphant year for the Menier Chocolate Factory. The venue’s production of Funny Girl transferred to the West End and is soon heading out on a national tour, while other successes included the transfer of Florian Zeller’s The Truth to the West End, with the recent production of Tom Stoppard’s Travesties to follow it there next year. But no show has been more exquisitely and perfectly realised there than She Loves Me.

Though it’s set in a Budapest parfumerie, director Matthew White ingeniously has the characters play the roles in British accents. So Georg Novack and Amalia Balish – the warring co-workers who find themselves unwittingly romancing each other by letter without realising it, could be characters right out of Coward. This effect is enhanced by Mark Umbers and Scarlett Strallen’s naturally uptight but sublimely sung performances. Katherine Kinglsey’s Ilona is a hilarious straight-talking cockney, and Callum Howell’s fresh-faced delivery worker Arpad is a Welshman.

Somehow it makes it all the more relatable and less of a period curiosity. But it is also played with exactly the right blend of sincerity and feeling; Les Dennis is heartbreaking as a cuckolded shopkeeper, while Alastair Brookshaw is quietly affecting as a man clinging insecurely to his job.

Paul Farnsworth’s set folds out into an invitingly luxurious shop, shadowy restaurant and Ilona’s bedroom, as required, with effortless resourcefulness.

Bock and Harnick’s musical masterpiece is a fragrant delight in every sense, and not just because the shop it is set in trades in perfume, and it is given the sweetest-looking and sounding production in town.

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Verdict
An exquisitely realised staging of a show that is musical theatre perfection
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