27 October 2016 | drednm
A Romantic Atmosphere
Shining 2016 Broadway production of this beloved and nearly perfect musical stars Laura Benanti, Zachary Levi, Jane Krakowski, and Gavin Creel as employees of a perfume shop in 1930s Budapest. Superb music and lyrics by Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harnick propel the story so well, the 140 minutes fly by.
The story goes back to the original Hungarian play by Miklos Laszlo, which was adapted for the 1940 Hollywood film THE SHOP AROUND THE CORNER starring Jimmy Stewart and Margaret Sullavan. A musical version followed in 1949 as IN THE GOOD OLD SUMMERTIME, starring Judy Garland and Van Johnson. The first Broadway musical production in 1963 went back to the original play and starred Barbara Cook, Daniel Massey, Barbara Baxley, and Jack Cassidy. This production was revived in 1993 with Boyd Gaines and Judy Kuhn and again here in 2016. There was also a British TV movie in 1978 starring Robin Ellis and Gemma Craven, based on a West End stage production. The story was also used for the 1998 film YOU'VE GOT MAIL, which starred Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan.
Story has battling co-workers Benanti and Levi who each writes lonelyheart letters to "dear friend." They have no idea that they are writing to each other. The romantic story unfolds amid tensions and work and the problems of fellow employees.
Benanti and Levi are wonderful as the would-be lovers Amalia and Georg. They act and sing well. Krakowski nearly steals the show as the hard-luck Ilona, and Creel is snarky as Kodaly. Co-stars include Byron Jennings as the store owners, Nicholas Barasch as the delivery boy, Michael McMcGrath as toady Sipos, Peter Bartlett as the frantic head waiter, and Michael Fatica as the busboy.
The many variations on stage and screen of the well-loved story missed out on what may have been the definitive version. At one point, Julie Andrews planned a film version of the musical but it never got made after musicals fell out of favor at the box office. She would have been a sublime Amalia.