note: entire contents copyright 2012 by Sheila Barth
North Shore residents have two big reasons to rejoice at the North Shore Music Theatre’s snazzy, high-stepping production of Jerry Herman’s 1964 multi-Tony Award-winning smash hit “Hello, Dolly” : Lynnfield native/Broadway performer Jacquelyn Piro Donovan portraying Dolly, and Winthrop rising star Stephanie Moskal who opens the show wheeling by on a scooter leading the 15-strong song-and-dance ensemble on stage.
Donovan was asked a few weeks ago to replace star Lorna Luft (yes, that Lorna Luft, Judy Garland and Sid Luft’s daughter), who was injured in an accident and is currently sporting a back brace and cane. Luckily, Donovan is slated to appear as the villainous Miss Hannigan in NSMT’s next show, “Annie,” (July 17-29) and was available earlier --- so she was a natural shoo-in to replace the ailing Miss Luft.
NSMT is equally fortunate to have pretty, 21-year-old Moskal, who recently graduated from the Boston Conservatory. Originally contracted to perform three shows in the Beverly theater-in-the-round this season, she had to leave the cast of the next two shows, after beating out about 1,000 applicants to perform with the national touring company of “Beauty and the Beast”. After “Hello Dolly” ends June 24, Moskal is off to New York to rehearse with the ensemble and as understudy for the role of Babette, the enchanted, sexy, feather duster. She’ll appear in several large cities in the US and Canada.
Besides her talent and youthful verve, Moskal sparkles on stage, her bright smile and lively step capturing the spotlight. In several ensemble and couples numbers, she leads the parade - literally - up and down the aisles, then on stage, wearing a glittery Uncle Sam costume in “Before the Parade Passes By” --- as confetti showers the audience and patriotic banners unfurl aloft.
Donovan exudes her own charm as Dolly Gallagher Levi --- the matchmaker, marriage broker, meddler, and New York celebrated merry widow who’s out to capture penny-pinching, half-a-millionaire, Yonkers feed-and-hay-storeowner Horace Vandergelder for herself.
Broadway star/Tony Award winner Gary Beach comedically portrays Vandergelder with bluster. (However, several times last Thursday night, Beach mistakenly referred to manipulative, fast-talking Dolly as Dolly Gallagher, dropping her surname, Levi.)
Despite inadvertent bloopers, this timeless musical, carefully directed by Charles Repole (who has successfully helmed several productions at NSMT and elsewhere), is a perennial crowd-pleaser. Theatergoers clap and beat time to its familiar songs, including theme tune, “Hello, Dolly,” “Elegance,” and “It Only Takes a Moment,” while Music Director Craig Barna and Co. provide the right touch and bravura.
During romantic, poignant numbers like “Dancing,” when pretty young widow Irene Molloy and Vandergelder’s 33-year-old chief clerk Cornelius Hackl (Matt Loehr) fall in love at first sight, the orchestra accompanies their first dances softly, sweetly. Simultaneously, Irene’s 17-year-old petite sales girl Minnie Fay and Cornelius‘ 17-year-old co-worker Barnaby Tucker do as well. The band punctuates every note, enhancing Michael Lichtefeld’s gymnastic, balletic choreography --- especially in the second act’s all-male energetic number “Waiters’ Gallop”.
Analisa Leaming as Irene is outstanding, her voice angelic, especially during her solo, “Ribbons Down my Back,” as she wistfully warbles about her hopes of closing her milliner’s shop and finding someone to love.
Sarah Peak as Minnie is delightful, too. She’s touching yet funny as she and Barnaby (Eric Mann) shyly fall in love. Mara Newbery as Vandergelder’s whiny niece Ermengarde, who’s in love with her suitor Ambrose Kemper (Cary Tedder), wails and kvetches throughout the play, and veteran actress Ellen Peterson is outrageous as naughty, bawdy nightlady Ernestina.
Paula Peasley Ninestein’s costumes and Gerard Kelly’s wigs and hairdos are resplendent, and Kendall Smith’s lighting and Michael Eisenberg’s sound effects help time travel back to 1890 --- when ladies wore huge feathered hats, plumes, and corsets to create an hourglass outline in their full-length, frothy feminine dresses.
“It Only Takes a Moment” to get to Beverly. I guarantee you’ll walk out singing, with a lilt to your step.