The second show of LaSalle Players season is "Hello, Dolly" which is based on Thorton Wilder's 1938 farce "The Merchant of Yonkers" which Wilder revised and re-titled "The Matchmaker" in 1955. This 1964 musical contains the music and lyrics of Jerry Herman and a book by Michael Stewart. It is the story of Mrs. Dolly Gallagher Levi, matchmaker and lady-of-all-trades who matches everyone she meets and while doing so finds a match of her own. Dolly sets her enormous bonnet for the well known half-millionaire, Horace Vandergelder, and her efforts to marry him. She wants to send his money circulating among the people like rainwater, the way her late husband, Ephraim Levi, taught her. Along the way she also succeeds in matching up the young and beautiful Widow Molloy with Vandergelder's head clerk, Cornelius Hackl; his assistant, Barnaby Tucker with Irene's assistant, Minnie Fay; and the struggling artist, Ambrose Kemper, with Vandergelder's weeping niece, Ermengarde. Through many exciting adventures Dolly gets her man and with a wink of her eye to the audience, she promise that his fortune will be put to good use as she quotes her late husband saying "Money, pardon the expression, is like manure. It's not worth a thing unless it's spread around encouraging young things to grow." This 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 Brother Michael McKenery with his associate director Thomas Haynes, wonderful music direction by Jeffrey Allard and choral direction by Paula Fontes, band director Brian Brouillard conducts the six piece orchestra and choreographer Cindy LoSasso's topnotch dance numbers especially the tap dancing waiters gallop sequence. (Travis Lundgren as one of the waiters steals the scene with his comical facial expressions during this segment.) They all chose the talented 56 students to handle these roles, which wins them a well deserved standing ovation at the curtain call.
Brother Michael blocks the show beautifully using every bit of space in the theater and opens the show with the whole cast entering the set and dancing on it. The two story unit set is designed by William Connors. Cindy's dances include a polka, waltzes, marching, soft shoe and topnotch tap. The whole cast performs their group numbers in perfect unison. The multitude of gorgeous costumes are by David Cabral, a theatre professor from Providence College. Cornelius and Barnaby's comic blue plaid and red checked suits are a hoot while the ladies gowns are breathtaking. This huge cast is lead by Shelby Clarke as Dolly. She is a pretty brunette who entrances you from start to finish with her high energy portrayal and fantastic singing voice. Her best numbers include "I Put My Hand in There" where she acts out each job description she can fulfill, the poignant "Before the Parade Passes By" where she sings about rejoining the human race after having mourned her late husband for so many years, and she stops the show in the "Hello, Dolly" song where she is clad in a breathtaking red brocade sequined dress and with red ostrich feathers in her hair as she makes a triumphant return to the Harmonia Gardens, does a stunning soft shoe and tap dance with the waiters. Shelby also does an excellent job in the Mae West vamp style song where she chastises Horace for his bad behavior. She makes the most of her comic and dramatic moments in this show creating a Dolly to remember. Some of her comic moments come 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 excellently by John Coletta who brings this stuffy, curmudgeon to life whether he is yelling at his clerks and niece or trying to romance Irene, Ernestina or Dolly. He also uses his wonderful voice in the unromantic song "It Takes A Woman" about needing a woman to do all the work in the house. This comic song is backed by the male chorus with superior vocals and fantastic marching and dancing by Cornelius and Barnaby. The eating scene is hilarious where Shelby offers him beets, and continues to eat after everyone is arrested. While John's facial expressions and exasperation at her meddling in his life is a hoot. He also handles the transition from hard-bitten to softer man when he finally admits his love for Dolly in the closing song. The mannequin scene at the end of Act 1 is very funny when the men pull the arms off it while Horace still thinks it is Ernestina. John does a great job playing this older character.
Some of the highest energy in the show comes from Sean Walsh as Cornelius and Colin Whitney as Barnaby. From their first entrance from Horace's basement till their closing moments, these two guys shine with their comic antics. Sean's tenor voices soars in "Put On Your Sunday Clothes", "Dancing" and "Elegance" but it is in the poignant "It Only Takes a Moment" that he shows the character's serious side. That song and the ditch digger speech shows he can handle the emotional side of this role with ease. Colin is hilarious as Barnaby. He uses a high pitched voice delivery to accentuate the character's naivete. Colin's talent as an actor and his vocal and dancing abilities shine in this role. He makes the "Dancing" song a laugh out loud moment when he almost knocks everyone over with his exuberance in it.He, Sean and the girls do a fantastic song and dance routine to "Elegance". Their girls, Irene and Minnie Fay are played by Gabrielle Whitney and Alison Russo. Gabi uses her beautiful soprano voice in my favorite song in the show, "Ribbons Down My Back" where she longs to find romance again but it is in the "Moment" scene with Sean that she shows off her strength as a serious actress with her tender portrayal. Gabi handles the funnier and lighter scenes wonderfully, too. Alison who is a topnotch dramatic actress having reviewed her last in "Summerfolk" where she played the leading role, shows she is adept at comedy, too. She is hilarious as the motor-mouth Minnie who can't stop asking questions and delivers her first monologue with the deftness of a natural born comedienne. Her dancing and singing are fabulous in all her songs. Their humorous rendition of "Motherhood March" with Shelby where they try to hide the boys from Horace is another comic highlight. Molly Nocera does a great job as Ernestina, Dolly's floozy friend who does the hootchie-kootchie in front of Horace and makes inappropriate comments all night long. Horace's pretty dark haired niece Ermengarde who cries constantly is played by Victoria Szlashta and her artist boyfriend, Ambrose who Horace hates is played by Nicholas Cancelliere. They both do a beautiful job in their roles and do an excellent polka in the second act and they finally stand up to Horace to collect her inheritance from him. So be sure you get to see Dolly back where she belongs onstage at LaSalle Players. Make sure you catch this show before the parade passes you by.