You’ve Got Mail! FSLT turns back clock to popular rom-com’s origins

You’ve Got Mail! FSLT turns back clock to popular rom-com’s origins
BECCA MARTIN-BROWN
bmartin@nwadg.com

If the show title “Parfumerie” doesn’t ring any bells, how about “The Shop Around the Corner” (1940), “In The Good Old Summertime” (1949) or the 1998 rom-com “You’ve Got Mail” starring Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan?

In the Fort Smith Little Theatre production of “Parfumerie,” loyal employee George Horvath (John Hall) works hard in the shop and takes solace in his romantic pen pal relationship with a young woman. But will the romance survive when George learns that his beloved mystery woman is actually Amalia Balash (Emilee Dale), the prickly co-worker he bickers with day in and day out? (Courtesy Photo)

“‘You’ve Got Mail’ and ‘The Shop Around The Corner’ are easily my favorite movies,” enthuses Jamie Lambdin-Bolin, who is directing “Parfumerie” for Fort Smith Little Theatre. “When I stumbled upon this script and learned about its rich history — including being written by a playwright of Jewish-Hungarian descent who came to America just before his home country went to war — I learned the origins of my favorite story. I couldn’t wait to see it come to life on our FSLT stage!”

“Parfumerie,” which continues through Nov. 20, is Lambdin-Bolin’s first mainstage production as director and only the second show since FSLT returned to the stage after a covid-19 hiatus.

“In March 2020, the pandemic forced our stage to go dark,” remembers FSLT President Sherry Hester. “Then, after 18 long months, we reopened in September with ‘Clue’ – and BAM! The house was suddenly filled to capacity at each and every performance. It was a solid affirmation of how much people have missed being together. Now with our reopening production behind us, our performance schedule is back on track.”

“Parfumerie” was slated for the pandemic-paused season, and Lambdin-Bolin says she had almost forgotten how excited she had been to direct this show “until we finally got to hold auditions in early October! I’m certainly thankful to have made it to this point, [but] the largest challenge for our show has been rehearsing while wearing masks. It has been so rewarding to see this cast overcome this obstacle, bringing their characterization, volume and emotions into the rehearsal process so well that I often don’t even think about the fact that they are wearing masks!”

“It is difficult to get back into the swing of things after this pandemic, especially when it comes to community theater,” adds Emilee Dale, who portrays the “extremely sassy, strong and intelligent” romantic lead, Amalia. “We went over a year without being able to do this, so it’s odd to get back on our feet. However, it is extremely rewarding to meet new people and bring a little bit of happiness to our community through theater! The best things about community theater are the people you meet and the friends you make.”

In the story, Miklos Hammerschmidt (played by Jon Gustafson) owns a shop selling perfume, soaps and lotions in 1937 Hungary. Loyal employee George Horvath (John Hall) works hard in the shop and takes solace in his romantic pen pal relationship with a young woman. But will the romance survive when George learns that his beloved mystery woman is actually Amalia, the prickly co-worker he bickers with day in and day out?

Slippery sales clerk Steven Kadar (Eric Wells) isn’t getting anywhere with glamour girl Ilona Ritter (Ashleigh Mathews) in the Fort Smith Little Theatre production of “Parfumerie.” (Courtesy Photo)

“The employees love and respect and fear [Hammerschmidt] all at once,” Gustafson says of his character. “He has long believed he has lived a successful life in business and in his personal life. Then he learns he has been betrayed and struggles to know the details of events and their meaning for his future.”

Gustafson adds that as a neurologist in his real life, “the tension between work and family are very real, and I closely identify with Mr. Hammerschmidt in this matter. I have not faced the specific difficulties my character is experiencing, but I understand the disappointment of things not working out as you imagined.”

As for George, Hall calls him “an idealist who is very much in his head about the way things ought to be instead of how they are. I get that a lot [myself]!”

“My husband and I weren’t unlike Amalia and George in the early days of our relationship, a fact that makes this show even more special,” says Lambdin-Bolin. “Working with him [as stage manager] on this production has brought back many fond memories and made many more.”

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FAQ

‘Parfumerie’

WHEN — 7:30 p.m. Nov. 12-13; 2 p.m. Nov. 14; 7:30 p.m. Nov. 17-20

WHERE — Fort Smith Little Theatre, 401 N. Sixth St.

COST — $12

INFO — 783-2966, fslt.org

Fort Smith Little Theatre continues its post-pandemic return to the stage with “Parfumerie,” the play that inspired the contemporary rom-com favorite, “You’ve Got Mail.” (Courtesy Photo)
Categories: Theater