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June 11, 2012

THE PENNY SEATS theatre company presents “She Loves Me,” a classic musical about romance, mistaken identity, and old-fashioned social media

Ann Arbor, Michigan –  In an internet age consumed by social media like Facebook, Twitter, and Match.com, the idea of two lonely hearts connecting as anonymous pen pals may seem quaint. The Penny Seats theatre company aims to correct that assumption with their summer production of the award-winning musical classic “She Loves Me,” opening July 26 at Ann Arbor’s West Park Band Shell.
“‘She Loves Me’ is about real people, with real flaws and real problems.  It's clever and sort of cynical in places, but yet, it has this incredible romantic hopefulness.  Audiences will be drawn to the humor and the edginess…but will then hope, in spite of themselves, for the fairy tale ending,” observes returning director Jacqui Robbins. Robbins, The Penny Seats board secretary, adds, “With so many people making internet friends they have yet to meet in daily life and with online dating, there is a revival of this idea that the perfect person is out there if only you write the right letter. That makes this show timely again.”
In this classic musical by a trio of Broadway's best-known creators (Sheldon Harnick, Jerry Bock, and Joe Masteroff), two workplace rivals spend their days bickering and their nights falling in love as secret pen pals, while their quirky coworkers deal with a spate of other problems. Said to have "one of the best scores... in musical theater," the show has enjoyed a well-deserved resurgence in recent years. 
The show is based on the play "Parfumerie," by Miklos Laszlo, which was also adapted cinematically three times: "The Shop Around the Corner" with Jimmy Stewart and Margaret Sullavan, “In the Good Old Summertime” with Judy Garland and Van Johnson, and “You’ve Got Mail” with Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan.
"We already had a huge change of pace between ‘Goodnight Desdemona’ [The Penny Seats summer offering and inaugural show last year] and ‘What Corbin Knew’ [in the Performance Network’s ‘Mosh Pit’ this winter], and I think we'll get the same sort of energy from the shift to ‘She Loves Me,’” noted Russ Schwartz, a founding member of the group. “The main thing is, we're ready to draw in new people, both in our audience and among our collaborators, and these shifts keep the group exciting for our current community while constantly offering new points of entry." 
Added Penny Seats board vice president Matt Cameron, “After two years of existence, The Penny Seats wanted to display their versatility by offering a musical.  While The Penny Seats are no strangers to music, a full-fledged musical is a massive undertaking.  However, it was very important to us as a company to provide our audience with something new and interesting; an outdoor musical.”
Choreographer and fellow board member Victoria Gilbert affirmed, “Some of our strongest roots as company members originate in musical theatre, song, and dance. This is what we do!”
This summer’s production will mark The Penny Seats second foray in West Park, after last summer’s well-received debut there. Rachel Murphy served as stage manager last year and will be producing this summer, “I am most excited to be coming back to West Park. I really enjoyed the community setting that the park offered. I loved how many people stopped and watched while we rehearsed and were so excited that we were there. I appreciated that so many people could walk to the park and enjoy a picnic meal with a bottle of wine before the show - what a great way to spend a summer evening!” The Penny Seats will partner with What’s Cooking again this year to offer picnic dinners for pre-order.
For Rachel and her husband Sean, The Penny Seats are a family affair. Sean, like Rachel is also a board member. He echoed, “I'm excited to be returning to West Park!  Last year, I joined The Penny Seats as the set builder and stage hand for my first ever theater production…West Park is a beautiful venue, and it’s great to see people outdoors, enjoying live theater.  This summer will be my first musical, so I'm really curious to see what that's like from behind the scenes.  I know it's going to be fun!”
Beyond the beautiful venue and the camaraderie of performing live outdoor theatre, the group is excited to be presenting a classic Broadway show.
“Such clever lyrics and lilting melodies! Songs like ‘Vanilla Ice Cream,’ ‘Twelve Days to Christmas,’ ‘A Trip to the Library,’ and the title tune are such a pleasure and have found life as standards in their own right through live cabaret and recordings by artists like Lena Horne and Barbara Cook [a cast member of the original New York production],” commented board chair Roy Sexton, who will be playing “Georg Nowack,” one of the lonely hearts around whom the show’s story revolves. “Georg is just this great everyman character to whom anyone can relate. He is dedicated to his work and is only capable of connecting with his true love through written letters. He is completely befuddled when he is around Amalia face-to-face…in fact, they can’t stand each other in real life!”
Penny Seats president Lauren London, who will play fellow “lonely heart” Amalia Balash in the production, added, “The comedy that comes from this tension is just priceless. I think audiences will have a ball!”
“The dream of The Penny Seats would not be complete for me without including some top-notch Broadway musicals in the mix…and not just any musicals; ones that are clever and fun and agile and touching,” London concluded. “‘She Loves Me’ is all of these.  The show has an incredible book and score by three of the best in the business, and I think experiencing it outdoors on a summer evening will create a particularly idyllic and inviting atmosphere.  I can't wait!”
SHOW DATES: Performances will be at the West Park Band Shell July 26-28, August 2-4, and August 9-11, all at 7:00pm.
“She Loves Me” premiered on Broadway in 1963, and subsequently had productions in the West End in 1964 and award-winning revivals on each side of the Atlantic in the 1990s, as well as regional productions. Jack Cassidy won a best supporting actor Tony for the original, Hal Prince-directed production. Boyd Gaines won a best actor Tony for the 90s revival.
LOCATION: The West Park Band Shell at Ann Arbor’s West Park, between Miller and West Huron
TICKETS: Tickets are $10 (age 12 and younger admitted for $7) online and at the gate. For more information, visit pennyseats.org or call 734-276-2832.
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