The OSU Department of Theatre brings Broadway to your backyard with the Tony Award-winning musical “She Loves Me,” set for April 26-28 in the Seretean Center for the Performing Arts.
This musical is the jewel box of musicals featuring music from the creators of “Fiddler on the Roof.” It’s also a sentimental story charming enough to inspire multiple films, including “You’ve Got Mail.”
Working in a 1930s Budapest perfumery, two salesclerks, Amalia and Georg, grate on each other’s nerves. Their only relief comes after the workday when they write their respective pen pals, not knowing they’re corresponding with each other. It’s a classic romantic comedy with an outstanding music score sure to have you humming tunes for weeks.
Sophomore Emily Frerich stars as the female lead Amalia Balash. Frerich was in the November production of “The Comedy of Errors” and last year’s musical “Spitfire Grill.” Although her previous experience helped develop her voice, Frerich ambitiously prepared for Amalia’s songs.
“For this particular role, this past summer and into the year, I have taken voice lessons with the amazing Megan Barth, who is our music director,” Frerich said. “I have also done classical lessons with April Golliver-Mohiuddin, who is an OSU operatic coach. Both of them have expanded my range and strengthened my confidence in my voice. I’m grateful for their training.”
Frerich isn’t alone in her gratitude for Barth’s teaching skills. Director B. Peter Westerhoff, professor of theatre, is not only appreciative of her training, but also her unmatched compatibility with the students.
“It’s been really good working with Megan,” Westerhoff said. “I met her last year, and she and I seem to work pretty well together. We think alike and have some of the same ideas. She knows what she’s doing, and she has a connection with the students.”
Barth is a professor at Oklahoma City University. Her knowledge of musical theatre is impressive to say the least. She is also strategic and implements vocal details to ensure the best quality of sound and portrayal of character emotion.
“‘Vanilla Ice Cream,’ which is one of the big numbers that Amalia sings, has a lot of elements particularly of opera, said Barth. Emily hits a high B at the end, which is very unusual for musical theatre. The use of vibrato really helps with the support and connection. Emily has been doing wonderfully with it. ‘She Loves Me’ is more classical for musical theatre. Anything with Harnick and Bock, who are the composers, or even Rogers and Hammerstein, will have operatic elements. Opera singers originally sang those songs and used a lot of vibrato. Now, especially with revivals, you don’t use vibrato as much, but we will use it to communicate a particular character trait, such as vulnerability.”
The music score demands the actors sing accurately in a higher register than is common in musical theatre. Music major Dustin Boatright, who plays the male lead, Georg Nowack, praises Barth’s focus on healthy singing.
“Megan Barth is great,” Boatright said. “We warm up every day, and she’s always so positive and kind. We couldn’t do the musical as well without her. She’s great at helping us sing well and healthy with all the emotion and proper acting. The most challenging song for me is ‘She Loves Me’ because it really works in the higher register. But Megan and I have been working on how to approach it all in a healthy way.”
“She Loves Me” is Boatright’s first performance with the Department of Theatre, but he is no stranger to the stage. He starred in this year’s Department of Music Opera “Pirates of Penzance” as the Pirate King, and performed in last year’s opera “Gianni Schicchi.”
“It’s been really different for me because in opera you just have to face out to the audience and sing,” Boatright said. “Your acting does matter, but it’s not as prominent, whereas in musicals a lot of the role is spoken. I’m really thinking about what this character is going through. It’s been really challenging for me to change my mindset and act with all these other incredible cast mates who are theatre majors.”
Boatright may find it challenging to act, but the cast agrees his talent comes out in more than singing.
“He came to us worrying about his acting,” Frerich said. “The first time he walked on stage we were like, ‘Dude, you’re really good!’ He has taken to this right away, and he is taking direction from Peter’s notes. He always wants to improve and try new things, and just wants to be sure this story gets told the way Peter wants to tell it.”
The students and the Theatre Department are working toward the same goal: present a musical worthy of Peter Westerhoff. “She Loves Me” is a sentimental musical for all theatre enthusiasts, but it is made more sentimental for the department as it is Westerhoff’s final production as a faculty member. He will retire after the spring semester.
“I’m personally just happy I get to work with him one last time, and I’m immensely grateful,” Frerich said. “Having people like Peter, who are so talented, and learning under him, is magical. While I’m very sad this is the last time I’ll be able to work with him, I’m excited for him. I will always be a big fan of his.”
Westerhoff’s passion is presented on stage through the students. He has inspired them, and in turn may even inspire the characters he is directing.
“He’s made a huge impact on me as an actor and as a person,” Frerich said. “In all honesty, I think the things I’ve learned from Peter are things I put in myself, and they may come out in Amalia. Peter’s passionate. He’s very focused, determined and hard working. He inspires me to be those things, and I think I am putting those things into Amalia.”
In addition to being the final production directed by Westerhoff, “She Loves Me” is the last production of the 2017-2018 season, and the department is grateful for the significant funding provided by the Paul and Toni Mass Melton Musical Theatre Fund.
Performances are April 26-28, at 7:30 p.m. and one last time April 29, at 2:30 p.m. Tickets are on sale now. General admission is $12, Senior (65+) and student (all enrolled in school) admission is $10, and child (12 and under) admission is $5. Please visit theatre.okstate.edu or the OSU Department of Theatre Office, 121 SCPA, to purchase your tickets.
For more information about “She Loves Me” or the OSU Department of Theatre, call 405-744-6094 or visit theatre.okstate.edu.