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Love letters: "She Loves Me" a classic tale of comedy, romance

MONTE DRAPER | BEMIDJI PIONEER Actress Kristen Husby as Amalia receives a love letter unknowingly sent from George, as played by Jake Endres, in the background in "She Loves Me," the final play of the season from the Paul Bunyan Playhouse. The play opens Wednesday night.

By Natalie Grosfield

Special to the Pioneer

BEMIDJI - "Dear Friend,

"If we are lucky, every once in awhile, we get a peek at a love that gives reassurance that all is well with this world. We take comfort in this and gain hope in the knowledge that two people, just like you and I, can create and share the very same thing that seems to hang the stars in the sky, give diamonds their sparkle and makes fireworks go ka-boom day or night. And if our luck holds, well, then all is right and all will remain right."

So it is with the love we see shared by George and Amalia in the play "She Loves Me," opening at 8 p.m. Wednesday at the Historic Chief Theatre, home of the Paul Bunyan Playhouse, in downtown Bemidji.

This classic charming musical, the final production of the 2013 summer season, is the third adaptation of the play "Parfumerie" by Hungarian playwright Miklos Laszlo. The sweetly innocent, yet romantic tale became the film "The Shop Around the Corner" in 1940 and was done as a musical version,"In the Good Old Summertime," in 1949. It was resurrected yet again in 1998 as the Tom Hanks-Meg Ryan film "You've Got Mail." Audiences everywhere can't seem to get enough of this endearing love story. And from the moment the curtain rises, one can understand why.

Georg Nowack, played with a straightforward earnestness by Jake Endres, is a dedicated "parfumerie" employee joined in his quest for a mountain of never-ending sales receipts by newcomer Amalia Balash, sweetly lonesome in her quest for love as done by Kristen Husby. Selling her skills to parfumerie owner Mr. Maraczek in order to gain employment, she is more assured of her ability to make the sale than she is of her ability to love and be loved. Soon, caught up in a seemingly endless feud with Nowack, they are both unable to find love among their known peers but are soon enamored of anonymous romantic pen pals. Finding the identity of their respective "Dear Friend(s)" is an elegant and entertaining journey of self discovery. The roller coaster ride we recognize as love is exhilarating and the trip is made all the more sweet by the beautiful music including "Will He Like Me?" and "She Loves Me."

The engaging voices, excellent comic timing, delightful dancing and attention to the smallest details imbue "She Loves Me" with an endearing innocence and old world elegance. Watching it unfold so delicately onstage, it gives one a sense of nostalgia for the days when the sight of a love letter in the mailbox meant everything is possible and nothing impossible. But mail is still as universal and relevant as ever, even if it isn't only found in the mailbox at the end of your drive or hanging beside your door. The inbox in this age of Internet romances still provides one with all the side effects of romantic possibilities; a rapidly beating heart, sweaty palms and shortness of breath necessary to accompany the ever enthralling declaration of "She Loves Me."

"She Loves Me" is a book by Joe Masteroff with music by Jerry Bock and lyrics by Sheldon Harnick. The play also features Katherine Tieben-Holt as long-suffering Ilona Ritter, Matt Berdahl as the despicable Steven Kodaly, Dann Peterson as the rigid Mr. Maraczek, Paul Reyburn as needy Mr. Sipos and Dan Lundin as Arpad Laszlo. The ensemble cast gives the audience laughter and lovely music in abundance.

Directed by Zach Curtis, with music directed by Abe Hunter, choreographed by Shannon Roberg, stage managed by Alexander Broeffle, lighting by Grant Merges, costumes by A. Emily Heaney, props by Teresa McGriff and scenic design by Michael Hoover, performances of "She Loves Me" are underwritten by First National Bank and Paul Bunyan Broadcasting and also made possible, in part, by a grant from the Region 2 Arts Council.

If you go

What: "She Loves Me."

Where: Historic Chief Theatre, downtown Bemidji

When: Opens 8 tonight and runs through Sunday and again Aug. 7-10. Tickets for all performances are $22 for adults and $10 for students with a 2 p.m. matinee Sunday featuring $18 tickets. All tickets may be purchased through the box office at 751-7270, online at or on the Chief Theatre or Paul Bunyan Playhouse Facebook pages.