Cast of a play rehearsing on stage

Cast of the SIU Carbondale School of Theater and Dance and School of Music production, “She Loves Me,” rehearse prior to the Feb. 29-March 3 performances at McLeod Theater. (Bottom photo from left) Bella Morris,who plays Ilona, and Gaige Lage, who plays Arpad, in rehearsal. Morris and Lage are juniors in the musical theater program. (Photos by Amihere Benson)

February 20, 2024

SIU musical theater performances of “She Loves Me” start Feb. 29

by Pete Rosenbery

CARBONDALE, Ill. — The Southern Illinois University Carbondale School of Theater and Dance and the School of Music are inviting audiences to share a time before emails and text messages – when letters sent by actual mail carried the hopes, dreams and passions of the lovelorn.

“She Loves Me,” a whimsical musical tale of two co-workers who find themselves living for love letters from unknown pen pals, hits the McLeod Theater stage starting Feb. 29. Performances are at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 29-March 2 and 2 p.m. March 3.

Audiences will be taken back to a 1930s European perfumery where oft-times bickering shop clerks Amalia and George separately respond to a lonely hearts newspaper advertisement. Soon, each lives for the love letters they unknowingly exchange before discovering their true loves’ identity.

Harkening to an earlier time

For director Angela C. Shultz and Christopher Morehouse, who will conduct the orchestra, the production and music are quintessential 1960s Broadway, which both note is viewed as “the Golden Age” of musicals. The time featured classics, including “Camelot,” “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying,” “Oliver!” “Hello Dolly!” “Funny Girl” and “Fiddler on the Roof.”

Shultz, an assistant professor of voice in the School of Music, became interested in the production for theater students “because it not only features gorgeous music and relatable lead characters, but also highlights the talents of the ensemble as well. Since it’s based on the same source material as ‘You've Got Mail,’ the beloved movie starring Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan, I think our audiences will love it.”

Morehouse, professor and director of bands, said providing music for SIU theatrical productions helps prepare aspiring musicians for careers.

“Playing in a pit orchestra is essential training for School of Music musicians,” he said. “Many music performance majors will play in pit orchestras in their professional lives, and many music education majors will conduct the pit orchestras for shows in their own high school programs.”

Madison Betz, a Master of Music collaborative piano degree student, is music director and will be playing keyboard in the orchestra. The pit orchestra comprises a wind ensemble along with a few guest artists. The 13 musicians are five string instruments, three woodwinds, two brass, two keyboards and one percussion.

Large production

There are 16 students in the cast, Shultz said. Theater student Allison Weaver is stage manager, with Sydney Ryan, a musical theater student serving as assistant director. Lenny Lively, a Master of Fine Arts student is scenic director, and Haley Hutchins, another MFA student, is costume designer. This is Hutchins' MFA thesis show.

shelovesme-1-sm.jpgWhile the musical isn’t as well-known as others, it “tugs at the heartstrings and has hilarious and relatable characters,” Shultz said, “The well-written and witty dialogue is enhanced by a stunning score.”

Shultz first fell in love with the production based on the late Barbara Cook’s Broadway performance. When Shultz lived in New York City from 2007 to 2018, she worked with Cook, who originated the lead role in “The Music Man.” “I loved hearing her stories about her long, esteemed career.”

“When the opportunity arose at SIU, I jumped at the chance to direct this gem of a show,” Shultz said. “I hope Barbara, who passed away a few years ago, would be proud of our work and the heart every single person is putting into the production.”

Tickets available

Tickets are $20 for adults, $18 for senior citizens, and $8 for students 17 and under or who have an SIU ID. Tickets can be purchased by phone (618-453-6000), in person at the McLeod Theater or Banterra Center box offices, or online. McLeod Theater box office hours for performances are 12:30-4 p.m. Monday through Friday through March 1, and one hour before curtain. Banterra Center ticket office hours are 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. 

Beer and wine from the university’s Fermentation Science Institute will be served at cash only bars in the lobby before performances and during intermission.