The Perfume Shop

By staff December 7, 2009

The Asolo Rep delivers a prize holiday package with The Perfume Shop.


By Kay Kipling


Romance and retail—who could ask for anything more from the holiday season? We get that happy mix with the Asolo Rep’s The Perfume Shop, an adaptation of the play by Miklos Laszlo that served as the model for such popular replicas as Little Shop Around the Corner, She Loves Me and You’ve Got Mail.


But this original, set in a Budapest parfumerie in 1937, has charms all its own. From the moment the curtain rises on Jeffrey W. Dean’s handsome two-story set of that shop, somehow magically evoking the time, place and mood of the story we’re about to see, we’re caught up in the fragrance of a special memory.

The main romantic storyline is familiar, of course: George Horvath (Jason Bradley) and Amalia Balash (Mackenzie Kyle) are warring workers at the parfumerie, unaware that they’ve been writing to each other as secret pen pals outside of the shop. But while they’re the central couple here, it’s really the ensemble effect of The Perfume Shop that makes it such a warm and enduring piece. Each member of the cast contributes to the atmosphere, especially Paul Whitworth as the shop owner, troubled by both the challenges of staying in business and, more importantly, by an unfaithful wife; Douglas Jones as Mr. Sipos, the philosophical yet worried longtime employee; Michael Joseph Mitchell, the caddish Mr. Kadar; and Ghafir Akbar, irresistible as self-important but basically good-hearted delivery boy Arpad.

 Mackenzie Kyle and Jason Bradley in the Asolo Rep's The Perfume Shop.

Many little details ring true about The Perfume Shop, and much of the dialogue, when it speaks of hard times and the woes of shopkeepers, will seem especially relevant in today’s economy. (One can only dream of the type of personal service these shop workers routinely provided, but it’s nice to see someone getting a Christmas bonus). Director Peter Amster, assisted by the just right costumes of Virgil Johnson and lighting by Aaron Muhl, succeeds in casting a sort of spell over the period and the production. 

And the two leads, Bradley and Kyle, are highly enjoyable together. His facial and physical reactions, especially when he first becomes aware of the true identity of his “Dear Friend,” are pricelessly comic. And she’s appealing despite—or perhaps because of—her indomitable nature.


The Perfume Shop is performed in three acts with two intermissions, but it never feels overlong, nor is it. The production continues in rotating repertory through April 1; for tickets call 351-8000 or go to
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