Review: Parfumerie (Soulpepper)

Perfumerie -Soulpepper

An uplifting romantic comedy for the holidays, Parfumerie is playing at Toronto’s Young Centre

I walked into the theatre exhausted and ready for some light, feel-good theatre. Luckily that’s exactly what was in store with Soulpepper‘s Parfumerie, on stage now at the Young Centre for the Performing Arts in the Distillery District.

Even though the piece seems to have become somewhat of a holiday tradition around these parts, this was my first time seeing the Soulpepper production. I was first struck by the absolutely luscious set. It was so beautiful. The show hadn’t even started and I was already in a better mood. I couldn’t stop staring at the revolving doors that were the entrance to the shop. Why aren’t revolving doors that beautiful these days? But I digress.

The initial visual feast didn’t end with the set of the Budapest perfume shop where the entire piece is set. As customers flooded the shop we were treated to wonderful period costumes from the 1930s. But, as with all excellent design, it is far more than just welcome eye-candy. It was not what I ended up focusing on throughout, instead it provided an excellent backdrop for a charming story.

When I was watching the show I found myself thinking it felt like it fell somewhere in between a farce and a romantic comedy. Lots of physical humour, some mistaken identities, and a love story. Not a huge surprise since this piece did provide the basis for the Jimmy Stewart movie The Shop Around the Corner and the more recent Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan film You’ve Got Mail.

There are actually a few stories going on here, several different relationships to explore, but really, the one I was most invested in, and the one I’d wager many people were most invested in, was in the strong loving relationship developed solely through correspondence. After a year and a half of exchanging letters George Asztalos (played by Oliver Dennis) knows he’s in love with the woman who he only knows as “my friend” and her post office box number.

Everyone worked so well together on this piece, weaving in and out of each other, physically and verbally. The direction was tight, comedic timing was bang on and repeated gags didn’t get old.

What I haven’t mentioned yet is the live music. There were an accordion player and violin player who made appearances throughout the piece who also beautifully set the mood. In fact, the addition of the music was one of my favourite parts.

In my discussions with a few people after the piece the words “lovely” and “adorable” were used a few separate times. Each time I felt compelled to pull out my notes and show the last few words at the bottom of the page, hastily scribbled during the curtain call; “lovely and adorable.”

So, if you’re looking for a nice way to spend a couple hours away from the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, I strongly recommend you take some time and check out Parfumerie.


  • Parfumerie is playing at the Young Centre (50 Tank House Lane) until December 28th
  • Performances: Monday through Saturday at 7.30 pm, matinees Wednesday and Saturday at 11.30 am
  • Ticket prices range from $51 to $68, students $32 and are available online, by phone at 416-504-1666, or in person at the box office

Photo of Patricia Fagan, Michael Simpson and Oliver Dennis by Cylla von Tiedemann