SEASON OPENER HAS SOME LOVELY MOMENTS
a Review by Larkin
Hello, Dolly! is a classic of the American stage. It has wonderful music and lyrics thanks to Jerry Herman, and has a wonderful book thanks to Michael Stewart (who also wrote the book for Bye Bye, Birdie!, the musical playing onstage at PCPH in August) and usually it has wonderful acting, singing and dancing. It has launched or advanced the careers of such diverse performers as Carol Channing, Charles Nelson Reilly, and Eileen Brennan.
The new production at Putnam County Playhouse makes the most of a lot of the elements that are there.
Without a “Dolly Levi”, you don't have a show. High marks to actress-singer Debby Lambert. She has been playing roles at PCPH for many years (she appeared in the ensemble in the 1971 production of Hello, Dolly!)
Debby was outstanding in the role. Her voice was in top form, and she played Dolly like it was her role from the beginning. Her way with the one liners seemed as effortless as her singing and the audience loved her from the moment she stepped onstage.
The other outstanding singer was Susan Anthony who stepped into the major role of Irene Malloy when the actress originally cast got sick. Anthony had about two weeks of rehearsal and she made the most of it. Malloy is a widow who wants to get married and close up her hat shop for good.
Horace Vandergelder, played by Bob Hedge, was slated to marry Irene, but circumstances changed – thanks to the machinations of one Dolly Levi. Horace has hired Dolly as a marriage broker, completely unaware that she has designs on him herself. Horace's denials and refusals don't phase Dolly in the least-- she has set the course for both of them. “You go your way, and I'll go mine,” says Dolly pointing both hands in the same direction. How can Horace resist?
Vandergelder sets out his philosophy early in the evening with a monolog and rousing anthem with the gentlemen of the ensemble called “It Takes a Woman” wherein brooms stand in for the distaff dancing partners for all. Hedge captured Vandergelder's blustery personality in speech and song.
Ethan Gill and Katie Hedge are star crossed lovers, thanks to Horace, but their characters, artist Ambrose Kemper and weepy Ermengarde (Horace's niece) get together at the end, too. Both are pleasant performers with good characterizations.
Alex Asbell and Jessica Watson are good, also. Alex plays Barnaby Tucker, the youngest clerk at Horace's store, and Jessica plays Minnie Fay, who is Irene's assistant. I think marriage is in the works for them, too. Their comic interplay and singing are everything they should be. Asbell and Watson make the most of their comic moments in facial expressions and vocal inflections.
The chief clerk is Cornelius Hackl, played by Logan Kuhne. He falls in love with Irene the moment he sees her – and of course sings about it. Kuhne's slapstick talents particularly with Asbell in the hat shop scene, gave the audience many laughs. He looks handsome in his costumes and the audience is rooting for him to finally get his one night off each week!
There is a horse in most versions of the play which makes a very funny comedy statement. The horse head and its bottom part never appeared in this play at all. This version needed the hilarity. I remember it as a highlight of most of the productions I have seen, especially in the musical numbers. Its equine presence was sorely missed.
Others in the show who were memorable were Lita Sandy, who plays Ernestina Money and a very funny Brunhilda character in the 14th Street parade; Mrs Rose, played by Jodi Green-Wingler; Dave Buttram, who plays Rudolph Risenweber, the head waiter at the Harmonia Gardens restaurant; Jim Rambo, who played Stanley, the waiter; Clarence Long, who played the judge, and Cathy Bain, who played the judge's recorder. All of them offered moments that enlightened the evening.
The waiters were Cy Spencer, Dalton Guyer, Dylan Harrison, Aaron Hunter, Josh Mills, T.J. Tincher (the best of the dancers), Cody Sheldon
and Andy Harrison.
The rest of the cast included Donovan Asbell, Mary Katherine Asbell, Amelia Beck, Katy Clark, Brookelyn Edgar, Deb Gannaway, Kaeli Grey, Kengra Green, Mikayla Guyer, Alison Howard, Katie Steele-Kannowski, Courtney Sweet, Andrea Sweet, Kaila Thurston and Madi Woodall.
This production was directed by four people: Vickie Parker started off, but there was an illness in her family. Sherry Hedge, Bob Hedge and Lita Sandy took over. Lita and Sherry also shared the choreography chores
with Katie Hedge.
The stage manager was Sarah Dory and the music director was Geoff Price..
The musicians are Price on the piano, Ashely Holmes on bass, Michael McClain on perscussion and Pat Scott on keyboard.
The sound & lighting technician was Bryan Schroeder. The sound board assistant was Jenelle Mason and the light board was run by Melissa Green.
The costumes were by Shelley McFadden, Sarah Bond and Pat Armitage. Set design was by Linda Gjesvold. Hair & makeup were by Jack Randall Earles and props were by Jessica Masner.