She Loves Me at the Minerva, Chichester Festival Theatre

Ensemble energy in She Loves Me at the Minerva. Photo: Catherine Ashmore
Ensemble energy in She Loves Me at the Minerva. Photo: Catherine Ashmore
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CHICHESTER Festival Theatre’s 50th season begins with a charming, whimsical musical, performed with panache in the venue’s smaller Minerva space.

Although She Loves Me is not essentially a dance show, the architect of the production’s success is director Stephen Mear who is better-known as a choreographer.

His mastery of movement is evident throughout. The stage is busy, busy, busy to match the sharpness of the dialogue and the use of overlapping melodies, with the decadent Cafe Imperiale and madcap Twelve Days to Christmas scenes merely the icing on a very fruity cake.

The plot concerns two squabbling work colleagues who are unknowingly engaged in an anonymous correspondence with each other. Then the letter-writers arrange to meet.

The show has an underlying ‘message’ about falling superficially in love with a dream before learning to love the reality. The point might not be particularly sharp but that hardly matters.

Principal performers are the always likeable Joe McFadden from Heartbeat and Dianne Pilkington. She carries the real weight of emotion in the story with both vocal and comedy acting power.

But the production is also full of delights in lesser roles: Jack Chissick as the comedy boss who is as large as life and twice as loud before dealing with his own grief; Lee Ormsby as a bone-dry head waiter in a deliciously decadent restaurant; the subtle Steve Elias and flamboyant Matthew Goodgame; and Amy Ellen Richardson from Fareham making her mark among the ensemble.

Lovely set, too.

Until June 18.