After my last post, I continued hunting for Bock and Harnick on YouTube and came across a most remarkable discovery: A TV movie version of SHE LOVES ME. Made in Jolly 'Ol England in 1978 and featuring TV/West End names of the day, this decidedly low budget affair nonetheless presents a charming production of Bock & Harnick's endearing RomCom.
SHE LOVES ME is based on Mikos Lazlos's THE SHOP AROUND THE CORNER, a Hungarian play about two bickering co-workers unaware that they have been writing love letters to each other for months as anonymous pen pals. The play had already inspired a Jimmy Stewart movie and the Judy Garland vehicle, IN THE GOOD OL' SUMMERTIME prior to being adapted for the Broadway stage and inspired YOU'VE GOT MAIL years later. The Broadway musical featured, in additon to Bock and Harnick's score, a book by their future FIDDLER librettist Joseph Stein, Hal Prince's debut as a Broadway director, Babara Cook, and Jack Cassidy who won a Tony playing the smarmy Kodaly.
Sheldon Harnick's lyrics are consistently smart, witty and well structured. Much has been said about "Vanilla Ice Cream" (if you don't know it, it's at the end of part 8, but you should let it come up in context for full effect), but I've also long been partial to the charming story song "A Trip to the Library" and the nervous patter of "Tonight at Eight." Jerry Bock's versatile and layered music was always a notch more complicated than that of his peers (see Herman, Jerry and Styne, Jule) while remaining accessible and memorable. He had a particularly knack for giving a sense of momentum and musical largess to comedy numbers (see the aforementioned "Library" and "Eight") that exist in the same musical dialect as his soaring ballads. These are songs actors love to sing and singers love to act.
Despite an abundance of excellent material, the show has never been a real smash--partially because it opened and an intimate chamber musical in a season that included HELLO, DOLLY! and FUNNY GIRL, partially because of some peculiarities in the writing. We see almost none of Amelia and Georg's animosity before we learn they are "Dear Friends". Throughout, the pacing spits and starts, giving EVERYONE a song, but not always making said song seem urgent at THAT moment in the show. (There is a certain casual, "day in the life" charm to be found there, something unique in our opportunity to settle in with these characters for a time. But there's everything to indicate we are in a traditional musical comedy, and nothing to indicate we are dealing with a horse of a slightly different color.) And though Jerry Bock's rich and evocative score finds much inspiration in the 1930s Budapest locale, I don't know if people are, or ever were, all that entranced by the allure of 1930s Budapest, especially when only seen through dim interiors. If we're going to spend all of our time inside, why not set the show in New York City and give the characters names we can pronounce?
Nonetheless, it's not every day you get the chance to see a decent, well sung, production of SHE LOVES ME, so the movie is well worth one's time. Cutting only "Days Gone By" (and it's reprise), this movie is faithful in word and spirit to Bock/Harnick/Stein/Prince's creation. The video quality is poor (cleary taped on TV and saved for 15 years before uploading), and the audio doesn't always sync up with the picutre. But the music is well executed and the performances spot on, with Gemma Craven as an endearing Amalia, Robin Ellis a charming if aloof Georg, Diane Langton a frothy Ilona, and debonair David Kernan as Kodaly.
There are 11 parts, each about 10 minutes long, the first of which is embedded below. Luckily, the uploader divided the videos into logical segments, so it's quite easy to watch a few a day until you have completed the movie (as I did).
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Did I mention that I LOVE your blog. I LOVE your blog.ReplyDelete
Thank you so much for this. I would not have found it otherwise. What a treasure.ReplyDelete