Theatre Mirror Reviews"Hello, Dolly!"

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"What Happened in Boston, Willie"

entire contents copyright 2012 by Tony Annicone

"Hello, Dolly!"

Reviewed by Tony Annicone

The opening show of NSMT's 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 splendid singing and dancing. The show is expertly directed by Charles Repole, phenomenally choreographed by Michael Lichtefeld and topnotch musical direction by Craig Barna who conducts a marvelous ten piece orchestra. They chose the best 25 performers for these roles especially Jacquelyn Piro Donovan as Dolly. This is one of the must see shows of this season. It wins a thunderous standing ovation at curtain call.

Owner and producer Bill Hanney and artistic director Ariana Knapp bring another blockbuster musical hit to NSMT. They spare no expense on magnificent costumes and sets for this stunning show. Charles does a superb job with his blocking of the cast to show picture postcard moments for the audience to savor and enjoy. Michael'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 stopping moment with the waiters doing the dance with excellent precision. The "Dancing" number dance and the title song also stop the show. Bravo! Craig's music direction is marvelous with exquisite sounds from the strings in "Ribbons" and "It OnlyTakes a Moment" while the jazzy blues sounds are supplied by the brass in the "Parade" and "Dolly" numbers. He not only obtains the best out of his musicians but the vocalists, too. Jacquelyn Piro Donovan who I last reviewed as Mazeppa in "Gypsy" in 2010 and Fantine in Les Miserables in 2007, makes a triumphant return to NSMT as Dolly Levi. She has a fabulous voice and is fantastic in this role. 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. Jacquelyn entrances the audience with her powerful 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 late 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 she does a fabulous kick-line and tap dance with the waiters which stops the show with thunderous applause at their expert execution of it. Jacqui 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". Jacqui makes a dynamic Dolly and is terrific in her dramatic and comic moments in this show, creating a Dolly to remember. Brava! She tackles the role of Miss Hannigan in "Annie" next month.

Her leading man, Horace Vandergelder is played excellently by Gary Beach. He brings this stuffy, curmudgeon to life whether he is yelling at his clerks and niece or trying to romance Irene, Ernestina or Dolly. Gary sings the unromantic song "It Takes a Woman" about needing a woman in his life to do all the housework for him. He is backed up by the male chorus in this energetic romp with superior vocals and actions by one and all. Gary handles the transition from hard-bitten miserly man to a softer version by the end of the show when he finally admits his love for Dolly. The mannequin scene at the end of Act 1 is a hoot when the arm is pulled off with Horace thinking it is Ernestina Money. The eating scene is hysterical when Jacqui cuts his food and continues to eat as everyone is arrested around her. Gary's facial expressions and exasperation at her meddling in his life are very funny. Jacqui and Gary have a lot of chemistry together and the audience cheers when they finally end up together at last. Gary first worked with Jacqui in "Les Miserables" on Broadway, she played Cosette in it.

The supporting cast is top drawer, too. Terrific comic performers are Matt Loehr as Cornelius who played Don Lockwood in "Singing in the Rain" here in 2006 and Eric Mann 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. Matt'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 also does an excellent job with the ditch digger speech, showing the character's emotional side. Matt is hysterical in the "Dancing" number where he pretends to not be able to dance. Eric is humorous as the naive 17 year old Barnaby who wants to see the stuffed what at Barnum's museum and keeps recounting his money when they are on their date in NYC. He is hilarious in the "Dancing" scene as well as in the restaurant and hat shop scene when Horace is looking for the two of them. Their girls, Irene and Minnie Fay are played by Analisa Leaming and Sarah Peak. Analisa is a gorgeous, statuesque blonde who wears a brunette wig. She 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 in the ordering of the pheasants in the restaurant. Analisa moves the audience to tears with her tender portrayal of Irene during "It Only Takes a Moment". Sarah is a hoot as the motor-mouth Minnie who can't stop asking questions of the crowd in front of the hat shop. She handles the monologue with the ease of a natural born comedienne. Sarah also displays her vocal prowess in her numbers. Analisa and her humorous rendition of "The Motherhood March" with Jacqui while they are trying to hide the boys in the hat shop is another comic highlight. Ellen Peterson is a laugh 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. I last reviewed Ellen as Aunt Eller in "Oklahoma" last June for Reagle Players. Jack Doyle plays Rudolph, the German head waiter at the Harmonia Gardens. Horace's pretty niece Ermengarde, who constantly cries is played by Mara Newbery and her artist boyfriend, Ambrose Kemper whom Horace hates is played by Cary Tedder. They show off their dancing skills in "Sunday Clothes" and in the polka in the second act. The dancers deserve a round of applause for their dancing prowess in this show. This show brings back many happy memories for me having directed it for West Bay Players in 1985. So for a spectacular version of this classic musical with many show stopping moments, be sure to catch "Hello, Dolly'' at NSMT before the Parade passes you by. Run do not walk to the box office. Tell them Tony sent you.

"Hello, Dolly!" (12 - 24 Junr)
@ 62 Dunham Road, BEVERLY MA

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide