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Thursday, October 14, 2010

Theatre Thursday: Same Old Story

When a story is very good, it bears repeating.
Such is the case with Miklos Laszlo's Parfumerie, a comic play about two co-workers in a small shop in Budapest who loathe one another not realizing that they are also anonymous pen pals falling in love with one another.
If the story seems just a little bit familiar, it might be because in 1988, it was updated to Manhattan, the co-workers became competing book store owners, and the anonymous exchanges occurred via e-mail for the Tom Hanks/ Meg Ryan film You've Got Mail.
If you're a fan of older films you may also have seen the story adapted into the Ernst Lubitsch classic, The Shop Around the Corner, starring Margaret Sullavan and Jimmy Stewart - one of my favorite films. (By the way, you may recall that Meg Ryan's book shop in You've Got Mail was called "The Shop Around the Corner.")
In 1949, it would be moved from a Budapest parfumerie to a Chicago music shop for the grand Judy Garland musical In The Good Old Summertime with Van Johnson. (Just before the end credits, a very young Liza Minelli makes her film debut.)
In 1963, the story got the full Broadway treatment as She Loves Me with music by Bock and Harnick. The show would be revived on Broadway almost exactly 30 years later. It is among my favorite musicals, and this beautiful, simple opening number from the 1979 BBC television version shows why:

It's Hydromatic!
(I have heard that the long-running British sitcom Are You Being Served? was inspired by the comic interplay of the colorful characters in the shop in the many adaptations of this wonderful story.)
Sadly, this musical - despite being a multiple Tony nominee and winner - just doesn't get produced much in regional theatre. You'd think someone could find a way to squeeze this gem in between multiple productions Grease.
Ah, well.

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