note: entire contents copyright 2000 by Beverly Creasey
"Hello Dolly!" kicks off Wheelock's twentieth season of presenting modern drama and classical musicals for the whole family. At Wheelock the actors get up close and personal. They enter through the audience and even perform in the aisles. Dolly Levi hands out business cards as she enters. Dancing lessons, fresh eggs, matchmaking and short distance hauling --- they're all her specialty. Robin V. Allison makes Dolly a delicious steam roller, flattening all opposition with her cockeyed determination. When Dolly sets her cap for Robert Saoud as the curmudgeonly Horace Vandergelder, he doesn't stand a chance. Saoud makes the stingy store-owner so cheerfully cantankerous you can't help seeing what Dolly sees in him.
The adorable subplot in "Dolly" is the big city adventure undertaken by Vandergelder's two rather green clerks. Byron Darden and Bill Monnen play the inexperienced lads with goofy abandon. The children in the audience went wild over Monnen's pratfalls...and director Jane Staab gives the two lots of shtick when Monnen and Darden have to hide to avoid being seen by their grumpy boss. Monnen can handle farce one minute and romance the next and make it work. The elegant Grace Napier plays his love interest. Their budding affection is one of "Dolly's" charms.
Comic relief is supplied by Gamalia Pharms as the giddy, squeaky-voiced hat shop assistant and by Dan Bolton as the earnest but oddball suitor for Vandergelder's high strung niece. Staab adds a number of whimsical touches, like Bolton's number still pasted to his back long after the dance contest....and she and set designer Rich Mauran pay loving attention to detail in the old fashioned silhouette cut-out tableau which opens the show, lit by in dusky shades of red and purple by Russ Swift. Staab perches Dolly (in Marian Piro's stylish turn-of-the-century finery) atop scaffolding which becomes a railroad trestle when Dolly catches the train to New York, and a jungle gym for the for the male chorus to swing from in the "It Takes A Woman" reprise. Jonathan Goldberg's orchestra keeps Jerry Herman's snappy, tuneful score bright and sassy, especially for the big showstopper when Gary Thomas Ng's waiters get to serenade Dolly. Tristan DiVincenzo's choreography was trampled a bit in the "Waiters' Gallop" opening week-end, but one small flaw doesn't diminish the fun. This "Dolly" delights.