"Hello, Dolly!" is about a woman from the small town of Yonkers, New York, who everyone knows and who makes it her business to know everyone and everything about them. Betty MacDonald stars as Dolly in the Winthrop Playmakers production of "Hello, Dolly!" this November 21-23 and 28-30. Her all-knowing smile says, "I can fix anything", her magic business cards advertise whatever service you need at the moment, and her charming performance wins your heart. However, it's not just Betty who makes the show shine, but it is clear that the entire cast and crew have worked together in true community spirit to make this production a success.
The show is an excellent choice for a community theatre and the Winthrop Playmakers really capitalize on the sense of community of the play. The strong community spirit is evident here in several ways. The entire cast is enthusiastic and energetic in all of their musical numbers. In the opening number we see all ages from the very young of maybe one year old making faces at the audience from the old-fashioned stroller, to the more well seasoned stage veterans, with all generations represented in between all adding to the successful recipe. A young boy and a young girl (about 5-6 yrs old) sweetly dance together and later playfully kiss and run offstage as the scene closes. The parade that passes by is comprised of community members carrying flags, dressed up, twirling batons, and a clown. Older generation folks portray townspeople. The show is performed in the Winthrop Playhouse, which appears to be a renovated church and features a small stage and seating for about 250 and also houses a cozy church basement type room from which homemade refreshments are offered.
Giovanni Cappello plays the well-to-do store owner Horace Vandergelder, who is seeking a wife to take care of his needs. He does a good job with the character for the most part, being most enthusiastic in his showcase song "It Takes A Woman" and playing the stingy shopkeeper and grumpy old man parts well. It is awkwardly surprising when Horace announces suddenly that he will marry Dolly, but it shouldn't be. He has neglected to show the inner struggle over whether or not he really likes or dislikes Dolly. His distaste for her is clear, but when he changes his mind about her and asks her to marry him, the motive is unclear and the foreshadowing is way too minimalistic.
John A. Hughes does a realistic Cornelius Hackl, the chief clerk of Vandergelder's hack and feed store who sorely needs a day off and devises a plan to get one and visit New York with his friend, the younger clerk Barnaby Tucker, played by Ron Saponaro. Hughes and Saponaro are well cast and are very good at physical humor, especially with their bumbling and hiding in the Miss Molloy's Hat Shop. Carolyn Taylor is a non-presumptuous show stealer with her cut-above acting and singing. She has excellent vocal phrasing and perfect pitch. Christine Simpson fits well as Minnie Fay, Miss Malloy's overly gossipy assistant. Cornelius and Barnaby convince Irene and Minnie that it is more elegant to walk across town since they haven't the fare for even the streetcar in a song and dance routine that gets them there with style and flair (and eventual fatigue) to the catchy tune of "Elegance".
Brittany Curran is Ernestina Money, the crude uncultured slut who escorts Horace to dinner at the upperclass "Harmonia Gardens" and does the hootchie kootchie on the chair at the dinner table. She plays this part well and humorously, acting the part of a woman twice her age, proving that her age, thirteen, is not a handicap.
Joseph Falbo plays Rudolph, the militaristic manager of the fancy restaurant, Harmonia Gardens. In his strong yet understandable accent he loudly directs the troupe of waiters through their outstanding acrobatics as they serve and entertain the patrons. When Dolly enters the restaurant the theme number, "Hello, Dolly!" is sung by all to welcome her. This show-within-a-show is very entertaining and visually enjoyable, with the waiters in their bright red vests, pants and bellhop type caps and Dolly in her red sequinned evening gown and red feathered hat all singing together and doing well choreographed dancing.
The sets add to the overall show, with the restaurant set being the most outstanding. This set is very posh looking with a long curving marble stairway with lit railings and the illusion of stained glass windows and several nice round tables with white tablecloths. Many of the set changes were done in full view of the audience and not very cleverly, save the change from outside to inside the hat shop in which the set is spun around as they pull on the door and when it finally opens they enter the hatshop again facing the audience.
The costumes are appropriate to the time period and some are very elegant, such as Dolly's red sequinned gown and her white wedding gown with the long train at the end and Irene's lavender evening gown.
The Winthtrop Playmakers are able to bring the audience in and share their love for theater clearly in the enthusiasm they present. They work together as a team to put on a good show for and by the community. Through their production, members of their town feel welcomed and unified and it is an excellent model of community theater for all, as well as good wholesome family entertainment for all theater enthusiasts.
Interesting quotes from audience members leaving after the
"The Best thing about that show was Irene Molloy! And what a pretty girl!"
"What a FUN show!"
One older gentleman left singing the refrain "Hello, Dolly! Well, Hello, Dolly! It's so nice to have you back where you belong....."
"They did a good job!"
If you haven't seen "Hello Dolly!" before you might want to read the Plot Summary.