She Loves Me, Menier Chocolate Factory, London. January 2017.After the confusion that was Nice Fish I was certainly a little bit nervous about going to see this musical on the same day. While I love the film You've Got Mail I was underwhelmed by the film that is adapted from The Shop Around the Corner and so the musical version of the same story could have gone either way. Then I saw it has Les Dennis in and to be honest my heart sank a little lower.
However this time I had a pleasant surprise. After reviving dinner with a glass of wine we arrived at one of our top theatres and the familiarity of the place, plus the knowledge that some of our favourite theatre productions come from this place calmed the nerves.
From the second the houselights dimmed I was transported into a beautiful, Technicolor whimsy that for two and half hours did make me forget everything else.
Again the set really needs to get a mention here as it was enchanting and revolved from a basic street scene to the beautifully decorated interior of the shop seamlessly. Then later on more scenery slid on and we were in a cafe/bar, a hospital and a bedroom - it all worked and was all so beautifully decorated and detailed that it really did look like you could step into these real places. We were in the front row and seeing the small detail here set the tone for the detail and precision of the whole production.
The story could be hard to stage as the main romance is epistolary but as the protagonists meet in real life and dislike each other there is wonderful tension - they played the oblivious romantic connection really well and right up to the end there was just enough tension and doubt to keep the story interesting. The subplots were also fun and this felt a real ensemble piece where everyone got to tell their story. Even Les Dennis was good in his role, and managed to make me feel sorry for his character.
The singing and dancing were great, the comedy funny and the right level of sadness/tension reached making this a wonderfully balanced show. I was also pleased that despite it being set in a perfume shop and scents being 'sprayed' throughout the creatives had decided to make this just visual and not olfactory - my imagination supplied the smells I'd like to sniff and not overpowering ones that cause headaches!
I'm not sure how highly it will feature on my best of lists come the end of the year but in a January that seems cold and bleak (weather-wise and politically speaking) this was just what I needed, pure escapism that left me feeling warm and happy.