This is not a well known musical, which is inexplicable because it sits right up there alongside the best of them. With a book by Joe Masteroff (Cabaret), music by Jerry Bock and lyrics by Sheldon Harnick (both writers of Fiddler On The Roof) it certainly has the right pedigree.
The trite title belies the sophistication and wit of this punchy, light-hearted romance set in a small perfume shop in the 1930s. The story is based on a book by Hungarian writer, Miklos Laszlo and it takes place in Budapest although the actors use American accents in this production.
Georg (Rowan Witt), a sales clerk in a perfumery, has been corresponding with an anonymous woman via a lonely hearts service and they finally arrange a date to meet. In the meantime, Amalia (Caitlin Berry), a young, attractive woman, walks into the shop one day seeking work, and after a brilliant display of salesmanship, is hired. Georg and Amalia have instant antipathy towards each other, little realising that fate has conspired to bring them together. To say more is to give too much away, but the plot gets thicker and there are a couple of side stories for added texture.
The music is instantly likeable without feeling hackneyed, and the script and lyrics are very sharp and funny. Tony Llewllyn-Jones is delightful as shop owner Zoltan Maraczek. Jay James-Moody plays duel roles as Ladislav the clerk and a head waiter in a restaurant in which he is hysterical and almost walks away with the show. An exquisite vintage perfume shop set is transformed into other locations with simple use of lighting and basic props. Everyone is in fine voice and the intimacy of the Hayes Theatre gives this show warmth and connection.
This is pure uplifting, toe-tapping escapism.
Until Sep 15. Hayes Theatre Company. 19 Greenknowe Ave, Potts Point. $69-$75+b.f Tickets & Info: www.hayestheatre.com.au
Reviewed by Rita Bratovich.