The first show of Reagle Players 41st season is "Hello, Dolly!" which is based on Thornton Wilder's play, "The Matchmaker". This 1964 musical contains music and lyrics by Jerry Herman and is the story of the resourceful widow, Mrs. 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. The show is a madcap musical which brings the audience into a bygone era filled with excellent singing and dancing. The show is expertly directed by Worth Howard and the outstanding music direction is under Dan Rodriguez and Jeff Leonard who also conducts the fantastic orchestra with choreography by Susan M. Chebookjian who recreates Gower Champion's original staging. They all chose the best 47 performers for these roles, earning them a well deserved standing ovation at the curtain call.
Worth does an excellent job in his direction of this show, from his blocking of people to placement of cast members to show picture postcard moments and obtains many laughs with his knowledge of these zany characters of the past. He knows how to get the best out of them comically and dramatically. The gorgeous and plentiful costumes are by Freddy Witop from the original show and Costume World Theatrical, bringing vivid colors to the show especially Dolly's red dress and opening orange outfit. Jeff's music direction is flawless from the opening of the overture to the closing of the show, the music is exquisite to listen to especially the strings in "Ribbons" and "It Only Takes a Moment". Jeff not only gets the best out of his musicians but his vocalists, too. (The trumpet players help to bring the bluesy feel to the title number and the brass feeling in the parade scene.) Susan's choreography of polka, waltzes, marching, cake-walk, kick-line, gallop, sword fighting, soft shoe to name a few. The dancing is excellent and the dancers perform her steps in perfect unison especially in the Waiters' Gallop and the Dolly song. Susan directed and choreographed the outstanding "Joseph" last season for Reagle Players. Stage manager,Karen Parlato keeps things running smoothly onstage and backstage, keeping the show in constant motion with her assistant stage manager Paul Reynolds who's lovely wife, Eileen Grace an excellent choreographer for Radio City Music Hall and Reagle Players, is expecting twins this October. The huge sets are moved on and offstage with ease by Paul and his crew, including the clever hat shop with the outside revolving around to become a huge shop inside, the two story Vandergelder's Hay and Feed store and the Harmonia Gardens set with 12 stairs for Dolly to make her grand entrance as well as having many backdrops throughout the show. The magnificent vocals of the cast reverberate in their solos, duets and chorus numbers due to the casts powerful voices and the vocal training by Jose Delgado.
The cast is led by the sexy red head Rachel York as Dolly who has a fabulous belting voice similar to Barbara Streisand.(She won the Drama Desk award for her role opposite Julie Andrews in "Victor/Victoria" on Broadway).Her rapid fire dialogue keeps you in stitches whether it be when she is teaching someone how to dance or trying to get the man she wants to marry her. Rachel entrances you from start to finish with her high energy portrayal from "I Put My Hand in There" where she acts out each job description she can fulfill. Rachel is one of the sexiest Dolly's I have ever seen and her dancing is superb, too. Her best numbers include the poignant, "Love,Look in My Window" which was originally written when Ethel Merman was performing the show on Broadway to soften the character so the audiences of the late 1960's would be sympathetic towards her, the moving "Before the Parade Passes By" where she sings about rejoining the human race after mourning for her husband for many years and in the "Hello Dolly" song where clad in a red dress and with red ostrich feathers in her hair, she makes a triumphant return to Harmonia Gardens where with the waiters she does a fantastic kick-line which is a standout moment in this show. Rachel also does an excellent job in the Mae West vampy style number, "So Long Dearie" where she chastises Horace for his bad behavior . She makes the most of the comic and dramatic moments in the show, creating a Dolly to remember with her topnotch line delivery. Some of 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 them how to dance in "Dancing". Her leading man, Horace Vandergelder is played beautifully by Jamie Ross. 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 all the housework for him. Jamie 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 while Horace thinks it is Ernestina Money. The eating scene is hysterical where Rachel cuts his food, tucks the napkin under his chin and continues to eat after everyone is arrested while Jamie's facial expressions at exasperation at her meddling in his life are a hoot. Rachel and Jamie have a lot of chemistry together and the audience cheered when they ended up together at last.
Some comedic energy in the show comes from Rick Hilsabeck as Cornelius and Sean McLaughlin as Barnaby. From their first entrance from below the Hay and Feed set to their closing moments, this duo shine with their comic antics and rapport with each other. Rick's voice soars in "Sunday Clothes", "Dancing" and "Elegance" but it is in "It Only Takes a Moment" that he shows the character's serious side. (The ditch digger speech shows off the emotional side of Cornelius.) Sean 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 in NY on their date. His jumping around the stage in "Dancing" scene is another of his laugh out loud moments. Their girls, Irene and Minnie Fay are played by Sarah Pfisterer and Danielle Naugler. Sarah who is a gorgeous blonde has a lovely soprano voice which is heard in my favorite song in the show, "Ribbons Down My Back" where Irene longs to find romance again but it is in the "Moment" scene with Rick that she shows her strength as a serious actress, moving the audience to tears with its tender portrayal. (I am not surprised at her dramatic prowess having reviewed Sarah in "Carousel", "The King & I" and "The Sound of Music".) Sarah also handles the comic scenes wonderfully, too especially the "Elegance" scene, the ordering of pheasants in the restaurant and the hat shop scene. Danielle is a hoot as the motor-mouth Minnie who can't stop asking questions and delivers her hat shop monologue with the ease of a natural born comedienne while chasing the passer-by's off the stage with her constant babbling. Danielle also shows off her strong dancing skills in this role during "Dancing" and "Elegance" as well as her strong vocal prowess. Their humorous rendition of "The Motherhood March" with Rachel in the scene where they are trying to hide the two boys, is another comic highlight. Angela Richardson is a riot as Ernestina, 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 all night long. She also chase on of the waiter's offstage trying to grab his butt.
Horace's pretty niece, Ermengarde who constantly cries is played by Sarah Landry and her artist boyfriend, Ambrose who Horace hates, is well played by Patrick Dillon Curry who is a sophomore at Carnegie Mellon's acting/musical theatre program. They get to dance a polka in the second act and finally stand up to Horace during the finale scene. Another comic performance is given by Jean-Alfred Chavier as the judge with the huge fake nose which Dolly makes fun of by saying E Proboscis Unum and cries at the end of the "Moment" song releasing everyone but Horace. A touching portrayal of Dolly's friend, Mrs. Rose from the olden days is given by Betsy Foley as the lead in to the romantic ballad "Love Look in My Window". The multitude of fabulous dancers is led by Joseph Cullinane and they all deserve kudos for their excellent work throughout the show. This show brings back many happy memories for me, having played the trombone in the pit band for the show in high school and having directed it for West Bay Players in 1986. So for an outstanding version of this musical with many show stopping moments in it, be sure to catch "Hello, Dolly!" before the parade passes you by.