Saddleback’s ‘She Loves Me’ gives an impressive performance

The script for the musical "She Loves Me" was transformed into the popular film "You've Got Mail," starring Meg Ryan. (courtesy Nina Welsh)

The script for the musical “She Loves Me” was transformed into the popular film “You’ve Got Mail,” starring Meg Ryan. (courtesy Nina Welsh)

It was a full house at the McKinney Theatre for the opening night of “She Loves Me” on Friday, April 8. Students and families filled the theater to watch the musical come to life at Saddleback College.

“She Loves Me” follows the story of two perfume clerks who despise each other at first, but then realize they are actually in love. The clerks write anonymous love letters to mysterious lovers using the alias “Dear friend,” unaware that they are actually writing to each other.

“We have been working on ‘She Loves Me’ since last July 2015,” said director Scott Farthing. “We started rehearsing Feb. 1, and the cast is just so excited. They want to share this with everyone because they have been working so incredibly hard on it.”

Farthing even sat in the audience to watch the show himself, alongside his friend and coworker Deidre Cavazzi, the choreographer of “She Loves Me” and chair of the Dance Department.

The cast included many dedicated Saddleback students, such as lead actors Alex McDermott who played Amalia Balash, and Emma Chassey who played Ilona Ritter. Nathan James Corbett also gave an impressive performance playing Georg Nowak, the lead male role.

McDermott played her stubborn character with grace, throwing convincing tantrums and having dramatic meltdowns that both exhibited her talent and made the audience snicker. Chassey was delightfully engaging and she portrayed the sassy and confident character of Ilona with ease. Corbett’s performance was absolutely flawless and he certainly displayed his acting expertise through his character Georg.

“Tonight went phenomenally,” Meghan Riopelle said, who sang the charming and comedic “Romantic Atmosphere” and played the Dance Captain. “We could not have asked for a better audience. Everything is just going to get better from here!”

The musical has been adapted many times since it was first written in 1937 by Miklos Laszlo. But interestingly, the script was later actually adapted into the popular 1998 movie “You’ve Got Mail” starring Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan.

“She Loves Me” is musically directed by Lex Leigh and features songs like “No More Candy” and “Vanilla Ice Cream,” as well as thoughtful and honest ballads like “Will He Like Me?” and “Dear Friend.”

“The show was absolutely hilarious,” said business major Natalie Cervantes. “It was very clever and well done. I appreciated the subtle humor throughout. I might be biased because he is my brother, but I thought Jonah Cervantes gave a great performance as Kodaly. The two main leads who played Amalia and Georg were also amazing and just very natural.”

The set was designed as a mid-century perfume store, complete with pastel arrangements that complimented the lighthearted mood of the musical. The show was blithe and entertaining and the audience couldn’t wait for Georg and Amalia to finally realize that they were in love with each other.

“Opening night sets the tone for the whole show,” Farthing said. “The audience spreads their thoughts about the show through word of mouth, which will affect the rest of the performances in the following weeks.”

Farthing has a background in directing, including past productions at Saddleback College and ten years of vocal and choral concerts. Choreographer Deirde Cavazzi also has a profound history in dance, including teaching various classes of dance, yoga, choreography and dance history as well as being the director and choreographer for ArchiTexture Dance Company.