Richard Choate's vision was mostly achieved, he says, once a cadre of fine players was cast for "She Loves Me," a romantic, musical comedy opening this weekend at the Cascades Theater. When a director finds a winning cast, Choate says, only a small part of the challenge remains. "If you've cast a play correctly, you only have 10 to 15 percent effort to put back into it," he says. "These are fine actors, and they are all incredible singers."
- Elizabeth Warnimont
- From left, Shantae Knorr, Kimmie Neff, Kara Klontz and Ryan Klontz play employees at the exclusive perfume shop.
The 1998 film, "You've Got Mail," with Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan is similarly rooted in the original, 1937 play, "Parfumerie" by Miklós László, in which two lonely, incompatible souls seek love through anonymous dating platforms. The musical was written by Joe Masteroff, with its first performance in 1963. "The musical is a complete lift from the original play," Choate says, with the addition of an orchestral score. In it, the two lonely hearts eventually arrange to meet their mystery matches—coincidentally, at the same upscale cafe.
"The music is delightful," Choate says. "And I lucked out," he says of the able cast. "I have probably the best voices in Central Oregon—not only the leads, but the chorus as well." The sets and props are elaborate, he says. One scene change in particular requires a great deal of time to execute, so at a rehearsal Monday, the gang was still working on the timing. "We have to be creative," Choate says. The switch, from the perfume shop setting to the Cafe Imperial where the two lonely hearts finally meet, happens between scenes, but not between acts—so they don't have the luxury of a timely intermission. That's where the creativity has to happen. "That one scene change needs to be entertainment," Choate hints.
"The look is wonderful," Choate adds. "Maraczek's Parfumerie has branded products. You'll see labels on jars, tubes of cold cream, all Maraczek. Mona Lisa Cold Cream. The people who have done the props and set dressing have all done an exceptional job of making this look like the real deal."
Choate can't seem to say enough about the exceptional cast. "We had a lot of women audition. They were all so good, I was hopeful some of them would be willing to help out with the ensemble parts. And they all did," he smiles. "They all did, every one of them. They wanted to be in something they knew was going to be fun and worthwhile."
"She Loves Me" is a feel-good story with a subtle thread of mystery and a bit of underlying tragedy, promising to give audiences something to talk about.