It’s one of Karen Lund’s favorite stories of all time.
And, it’s a favorite among many. In fact, Hollywood has spun this story not once, but three times. The first adaptation was the 1940 Ernst Lubitsch romantic comedy “The Shop Around the Corner,” starring James Stewart and Margaret Sullavan. That was followed by the 1949 screen musical version “In the Good Old Summertime,” starring Judy Garland. Much later saw the 1998 Nora Ephron movie “You’ve Got Mail,” with Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan.
Not many know the inspiration behind those Hollywood hits including the earlier, yet popular, adaptations.
“Parfumerie,” the original 1936 Hungarian play by Miklós László, introduced the now-famous story. The original play takes place in a Budapest gift shop around Christmas and follows the relationships between the store’s employees and customers. The central relationship — the one emphasized in the film adaptations — is between two feuding co-workers who don’t realize they are pen pals.
Through several versions and adaptations, the romantic comedy has become a classic.
While the story is well-known in film, it’s also a classic on the musical stage.
“She Loves Me,” another “Parfumerie” adaptation, debuted on Broadway in 1963. It’s been nominated for more than 50 awards including the Tony, Drama Desk and Olivier Awards.
Now, local audiences can experience the musical adaptation of the classic romantic comedy on the Village Theatre stage.
“She Loves Me” will make its Village Theatre debut Jan. 16 and will run through Feb. 23.
“She Loves Me,” like the film adaptations, centers around the relationship between two quick-witted shop clerks.
Perfumery shop clerks Amalia and Georg have never quite seen eye to eye, according to Village Theatre’s description. Despite constantly being at odds with each other at work, they are unaware that they have already fallen in love as pen pals through a lonely-hearts advertisement.
“It’s one of my favorite stories,” director Karen Lund said. “I grew up watching the Jimmy Stewart version.”
“She Loves Me” is Lund’s first Village Theatre Mainstage production. Lund has served as the associate artistic director for Taproot Theatre since 1993.
She had no idea she would be asked to direct “She Loves Me.”
“I had just finished doing ‘Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley,’ when [Village Theatre artistic director] Jerry Dixon asked me to lunch,” she recalled.
What she thought was a casual lunch was actually an interview.
“At the end of the lunch, he said ‘You passed.’ ‘What?’ I said. ‘You were just interviewed.’ He said, ‘Would you be interested in directing “She Loves Me”?’ I was shocked and delighted,” Lund said.
The show has been in progress since last March. Lund has enjoyed being a part of the production and the Village Theatre community.
“I’ve been enjoying living in this story,” she said. “It’s been a good escape from the current political climate. Being in a community that makes you laugh, have fun and make life worthwhile.”
It’s a timeless story, she said.
“It’s set in the 1930s during the Depression and things couldn’t be more tense. The characters are simple, happy to work,” she said. “All that’s important to them are their friends, family and their relationships. If they can just achieve those things, they’re happy… It brings us back to the values we hold.”
What supports the timeless story is the music, she said.
“The music really adds to the story,” she said. “Every song is better than the last.”
“I’ve had the honor to work with an amazing cast and crew,” she said. “This story is timeless and you just can’t help but fall in love.”
“She Loves Me” is onstage in Issaquah Jan. 16-Feb. 23, before moving to Village Theatre’s Everett location Feb. 28-March 22. Tickets are on sale now and can be purchased at Village Theatre’s website, over the phone, or by visiting the Box Office. For more information go online to www.VillageTheatre.org.