The opening's double number, "Good Morning, Good Day'' and ''Sounds While Selling'' is very engaging, intricately voiced and wittily rhymed. The salespeople at Maraczek's perfume shop establish themselves and under Jonathan Goldberg's expert Musical Direction, dealing with the day's customers with the casual virtuosity of comic characters in a Mozart opera. Their pitch perfect job description promises a high degree of customer satisfaction. Kudos to the hard-working ensemble: Valerie Lynn Sneade, Brent Reno, Kristin Palson, Gretchen Galsworthy, David Fougere, George S. McCarthy, Brian De Lorenzo, Richard La France, Geoffrey P. Burnseach, plus Choreographer Ilyse Robbins-- each of whom will be given a brief opportunity to shine by Director Spiro Veloudos
Then it's on to Joe Masteroff's plot. George Nowack (Chip Phillips) and Amalia Balash (Amy Soroko) meet when Amalia applies for a job at the perfume shop where the owner's protégé, George, is head salesclerk. The pair take each other in dislike without realizing that they are already "Dear Friends" through a correspondence begun anonymously in the personals column of the newspaper. Phillips and Soroko are such attractive personalities that it is hard to to believe that they will continue to be mistaken about each other for long. If Amaila could see George's splendidly romantic song and dance number with the bicycle, her resistance would crumble instantly! It is only when Job Emerson's kindly and sentimental old Mr. Maraczek goes bonkers from jealousy and fires George that the leads' happy ending is seriously in doubt.
Next, the subplots. The naughty but nice cashier, one Miss Ritter (Maryann Zschau) is having an affair with the suave and dandified Mr. Kodaly (Steven Dascoulias), foolishly confident that he is the Mr. Right who will marry her and cherish her. Zschau is a consummate performer, Miss Ritter just the sort of flawed but lovable comic character Zschau does best. Even a reformed Kodaly wouldn't be good enough for Zschau's Miss Ritter, so it is more poetic justice than coincidence at work when "A Trip to the Library" supplies someone better. Robert Saoud's sweetly incompetent but well-intentioned salesman is rewarded with a boost for his self-esteem, Will Cohen's ambitious delivery boy gets a leg up the ladder of success.
Gail Astrid Buckley's period costumes draw inspiration from the
more appealing trends of the era, but somehow, just out of sight of the
stylish and comfortable shoppers, there are shadows. The implied contrast
lends a bit of an edge to most of the plot's proceedings. The sales
clerks are rather more frantic about getting and keeping their jobs, and
about flattering their customers, than is usual in prosperous present day
America. It isn't quite clear what the parameters of the Hungarian class
system and gender taboos are, but there are hints that the consequences
of transgressing either are more serious than they would be today. 1933
was, after all, a rather grim year. However, all the characters but
one escape the complications of "She Loves Me" without serious harm,
and, appropriately enough for a love story set in a retail establishment,
the show climaxes in an orgy of Christmas shopping during "The Twelve
days to Christmas". Fortunately, while Harnick's lyrics wax satiric
about the bustle and commercialism associated with socially prescribed
gift giving, Bock's music and Veloudos' production remain sufficiently
cynicism free to add dollops of cheer to Boston's seasonal feast.