The second show of Theatre by the Sea's 77th season is "Hello, Dolly" which is based on Thornton Wilder's 1955 play, "The Matchmaker". This 1964 musical contains music and lyrics by Jerry Herman, a book by Michael Stewart and is the story of the resourceful widow, Dolly Gallagher Levi, a matchmaker and lady-of-all-trades who matches everyone she meets and while doing so finds a match of her own She sets her enormous bonnet for the half-millionaire, Horace Vandergelder, and lands him on her pleasure-loving terms. She also sets out on a quest to match three young men with the perfect spouse. The show is set in the 1890's and is a madcap musical which brings the audience into a bygone era filled with terrific singing and dancing. The show is expertly directed by Kevin P. Hill with fabulous choreography by him and fantastic musical direction by Bob Bray who conducts a marvelous 7 piece orchestra. They chose the best 23 performers for all these roles, boasting one of the best Dolly Levi's who wins the show a spontaneous standing ovation at curtain call, making this one of the must see shows of the summer season.
Owner and producer Bill Hanney, Producing Director Amiee Turner and Managing Director Joel Kipper bring another blockbuster musical extravaganza to South County with this show. They spare no expense on magnificent costumes and sets for this outstanding show. Kevin does an excellent job with this show from his blocking of people to the placement of cast members to show picture postcard moments. He has his cast obtain many laughs with his knowledge of these zany characters of the past, knowing how to get the best out them comically and dramatically. Kevin's choreography is outstanding and includes polkas, kick-line, waltzes, cake-walk, tap and soft shoe to name a few. The "Waiters Gallop" dance is a show stopper, too. Bob's music direction is right on the money with exquisite sounds from the strings on "Ribbons" and "It Only Takes a Moment'' while the jazzy blues sound are supplied by the brass in the "Parade" and "Dolly" numbers . He not only gets the best out of his musicians but the vocalists, too. Bob returns to TBTS, having been in the chorus of 4 shows here in 1987 and having spent the last 10 years as musical director of "Mamma Mia" on Broadway.The multitude of gorgeous breathtaking costumes are by Lou Bird especially impressive are "Sunday Clothes" outfits while the scenic design is by Kimberly Cox. Lighting is by Aaron Meadow and sound by Ryan McGinty. The cast is lead by Cady Huffman who won a Tony as Ulla in "The Producers" on Broadway. She stars as Dolly Levi and makes the role her own, convincing the audience this show could have been written for her.. Cady has a fantastic voice, is phenomenal in this role and one of the best Dolly's I have seen.Her rapid fire dialogue keeps you in stitches whether it be when she is teaching someone how to dance or trying to capture the man she wants to marry her. Cady entrances you with her high energy portrayal from start to finish.Her marvelous numbers start with "I Put My Hand In" where she acts out each job description she can fulfill. Her best numbers include the poignant "Before the Parade Passes By" where she sings about rejoining the human race after mourning her husband for so many years and in the "Hello, Dolly" song where clad in a red brocade dress with red ostrich feathers in her hair, she makes a triumphant return to Harmonia Gardens where with the waiters she does a fabulous kick-line and tap dance which stops the show with thunderous applause at their execution of it. Cady also does an excellent job in the Mae West style number "So Long Dearie" where she chastises Horace for his bad behavior. Some of her comic moments occur when she tries to hide the two clerks in the hat shop during "The Motherhood March" and when she tries to teach the two clerks how to dance in "Dancing". Cady makes a dynamite Dolly and is superb in her dramatic and comic moments in this show, creating a Dolly to remember. Brava! Her leading man, Horace Vandergelder is played beautifully by Al Bundonois who I reviewed as Laurence in "Dirty Rotten Scoundrels" last summer. He brings this stuffy, curmudgeon to life whether he is yelling at his clerks and niece or trying to romance Irene, Ernestina or Dolly. He sings the unromantic song "It Takes a Woman" about needing a woman in his life to do all the housework for him. Al is backed up by the male chorus in this energetic romp with superior vocals and actions by all. He handles the transition from hard-bitten miserly man to a softer version wonderfully during the course of the show when he finally admits his love for Dolly. The mannequin scene at the end of Act 1 is very funny when they pull the arms off of it while Horace thinks it is Ernestina Money. The eating scene is hysterical when Cady cuts his food and continues to eat after everyone is arrested while Al's facial expressions and exasperation at her meddling in his life are a hoot. Cady and have a lot of chemistry together and the audience cheers when they end up together at last.
Marvelous comedic performers are Jason Ostrowski as Cornelius and Jake Bridges as Barnaby. From their first entrance from the Hay and Feed store to their closing moments, this duo shines with their comic antics and rapport with each other. Jason's voice soars in "Put on Your Sunday Clothes", "Dancing" and "Elegance" but it is in "It Only Takes a Moment" that he shows the character's serious side. He does an excellent job with the ditch digger speech that shows off the emotional side of Cornelius. Jake is humorous as the naive 17 year old Barnaby who wants to see the stuffed whale at Barnum's museum and keeps recounting his money while they are on their date in New York. He is hilarious in the "Dancing" scene as well as in the hat shop when Horace is looking for the two men and in the restaurant scene, too. Their girls, Irene and Minnie Fay are played by Rebecca Barko and Kelly Kanter. Rebecca is a gorgeous blonde, who wears a black wig in the show, has a lovely soprano voice which soars in my favorite song in the show "Ribbons Down My Back", where Irene longs to find romance again. She has comic moments in the hat shop scene, the "Elegance" scene and the ordering of pheasants in the restaurant. Rebecca moves the audience to tears with her tender portrayal of Irene during "It Only Takes a Moment". Kelly is a hoot as the motor-mouth Minnie who can't stop asking questions of passer-bys in front of the hat shop while they escape her constant babbling. She handles her monologue with the ease of a natural born comedienne. She also shows off her vocal prowess in her numbers. Their humorous rendition of "The Motherhood March" with Cady while they are trying to hide the boys, is another comic highlight. Erin Romero is a riot as Ernestina Money, Dolly's floozy friend who sings "Sweet Rosie O'Grady" off key on purpose, does the hootchie-kootchie in front of Horace and makes inappropriate comments in the restaurant all night long.
Horace's pretty niece Ermengarde, who constantly cries is played by Amanda LaMotte and her artist boyfriend, Ambrose Kemper who Horace hates is played by Evan Price. They show off their dancing skills in "Sunday Clothes" and in the polka in the second act. Another comic performance is by Glenn Zienowicz as the judge who has some zany antics in the courtroom scene in the second act where he cries at the end of "Moment" releasing everyone but Horace. He wears a fake red nose so Cady's line E Probuscus Unum garners many laughs. The dancers in this show deserve a round of applause for their topnotch execution of Kevin's creative numbers. The show brings back many happy memories for me having directed it for West Bay Players in 1985. Press night isn't complete without the scrumptious after-the-show buffet at the Bistro by the Sea by Duane Crowe and his lovely wife, Carleen. The buffet this time included meatballs, chicken wings and sausage with assorted desserts. So for an outstanding version of this classic show with many show stopping moments, be sure to catch "Hello, Dolly" at TBTS before the Parade passes you by. Run do not walk to the box office before it sells out. Tell them Tony sent you.