The musical originally premiered on Broadway in 1964. It starred the incomparable Carol Channing as Dolly Levi. With music by Jerry Herman, a book by Michael Stewart, and based on the Thornton Wilder play “The Matchmaker,” Hello, Dolly! was turned into a movie in 1969 with Barbra Streisand in the title role.
Dolly “Gallagher” Levi (Klea Blackhurst) is intent on marrying Horace Vandergelder (Tony Sheldon). He is the penurious owner of Vandergelder’s Feed and Hay. Under the impression that she is setting him up with the lovely widow Irene Molloy (Ashley Brown), Vandergelder heads to New York to meet her. His store clerks, Cornelius Hackl and Barnaby Tucker (Spencer Moses and Jeremy Morse) have decided to go to New York to find adventure and kiss a girl. While there, they happen upon Mrs. Molloy’s millinery shop and, attracted by her and her assistant, Minnie Faye (Catherine Blades), they enter the shop unaware that Vandergelder and Levi will be there any minute. You can imagine the chaos that ensues when they arrive.
As Dolly Levi, Blackhurst has a Merman-esque set of pipes and a flair for an effortless, dead-pan delivery of the show’s comedic lines.
Moses and Morse are a dynamic comic duo. Moses is long and lanky; Morse is short with a Donald O’Connor comedic physicality that has him falling on the floor, getting carried away by waiters and crawling under tables. Moses has a lovely singing voice which he gets to show off in “It Only Takes a Moment.”
Ashley Brown (Broadway’s original Mary Poppins) as Irene Molloy sings with a gorgeously full-toned voice, tenderly rendering “Ribbons Down My Back” as she pines for a new man in her life.
Director Daniel Goldstein has brilliantly directed this enormous cast (22 actors). He has crafted a seamless, flowing production with nary a dead-spot.
Kelli Barclay has magically choreographed the show. In some scenes there are four columns that the dancers must dance around. Barclay has the dancers fill up the stage, waltzing like the columns aren’t even there. The only number that may suffer from the size of the stage is the “Waiters’ Gallop.” I saw a preview performance of this show and the number, which calls for flying restaurant utensils and… well… galloping waiters, was constrained and still a bit sloppy, but impressive none-the-less.
The costumes have been artfully designed by Wade Laboissonniere. They have been made with a beautiful array of fabrics, some of them shimmering, some of them textured. In this Hello, Dolly!, Dolly comes sweeping down the stairs of the Harmonia Gardens, not in a red dress, but in a burgundy colored dress that has an overlay made from shiny fabric with a flower print.
After Dolly comes down the stairs in the number “Hello, Dolly”, the red and blue footlights illuminate her dress, changing its color, and reflecting off the Shiny rose-pattern of the overlay. Jason Lyons lighting is breathtaking in its ability to convey looks and mood.
Adrian W. Jones has designed a set that gives the impression that there is more space than there actually is. He has included an elevated walkway against the back wall of the stage that allows for the movement of actors, essentially creating additional playing space.
Bravo to Goodspeed for giving their audience a quality accompaniment to the show. The company employs seven union musicians for this production. Props to Musical Director Michael O’Flaherty for the rich, well-blended vocals achieved from the company.
Jay Hilton’s sound design has arrived at the perfect balance between the orchestra and the actors singing. When the overture began, the sound was full and clear.
Even after having seen Carol Channing’s Dolly Levi, numerous stock productions of …Dolly, and, of course, having played Barnaby in my high school production of …Dolly, this is the most beautifully created Dolly I have ever seen. Get yourself to the Goodspeed Opera House and see Hello, Dolly! before the parade passes by.