That meddling matchmaker Dolly Gallagher Levi and ornery widower Horace Vandergelder are at it again.
With a 35-member cast and an orchestra more than half that size, "Hello, Dolly!" is just the kind of entertainment you'd expect to find in a theater called the Grand. In it's own way, this is a kind of theatrical matchmaking - a big, grand Broadway show for a big, grand auditorium (and - for these days - some real bargain basement ticket prices).This production of "Dolly," one of Broadway's can't-fail warhorses, has a considerable amount of pluses (and a couple of minuses).
Just to see Pat Davis and Neal Barth as Dolly and Horace is well worth twice the price of admission. Pat looks and sounds great and Neal is excellent as the skinflint widower in search of a new mate.
The overall production was helped, too, by the fact that Pat Davis didn't make the same mistake we've seen all too often at other theaters in the region: the same person starring in AND directing the show, a situation that frequently leads to unnecessary excesses.
Glen L. Slight has directed this "Dolly" and gives it just the right light, frothy touch.
With Dolly and Horace being such strong characters, it would be easy to let the secondary roles be overshadowed, but that's not the case here.
Mark Knowles and Deric C. Nance romp energetically through the roles of Cornelius Hackl and Barnaby Tucker, Horace's two clerks anxious for an adventure in New York, with Tricia Davis and Leslie Driggs keeping right up with them as Irene Molloy and Minnie Fay, the objects of Cornelius and Barnaby's affections.
Ann Rawlins also does a fine job crying right on cue as Horace's lovestruck daughter, Ermengarde, and Dan Morgan is more than credible as her beau, Ambrose Kemper.
One very large plus (two of them, actually) is the exuberant choreography - with credit shared by both Alan LaFleur and Lisa Arbon. LaFleur staged three of the show's biggest, mostly male, production numbers - Van-der-gelder and the guys leaping and cavorting through "It Takes a Woman" and the two big Harmonia Gardens routines ("The Waiters Gallop" and Dolly Levi's magnificent grand entrance).
Arbon supervises some "big crowd" scenes, too - notably "Put on Your Sunday Clothes" in the first act, and the more intimate "Elegance" number during the second half.
Clif and Chad Davis' scenery, as usual, were spectacular. (And for this show, at least, the Grand Theatre has an orchestra pit of sorts. There's enough room in the old South High auditorium to build a runway around the front of the stage, encircling Kenneth Plain's 20 musicians.)
Diane Allen's colorful period costumes were also excellent.
It's just too bad that Dolly Levi's purseful of business cards didn't include one for "expert sound reproduction." The sound, at least on opening night, frequently faded in and out, sometimes in midsentence. Most of the opening part of the "Elegance" number was badly muffled - and I was sitting only about eight rows back.