REVIEWSREVIEWS BYTheatre ReviewsTom Williams

Hello, Dolly!

Book by Michael StewartHello Dolly by jerry herman

Music and Lyrics by Jerry Herman

Based on the play The MatchmakerHello Dolly by jerry herman

by Thornton Wilder

Stage Director & Choreographer

by Rudy Hogenmiller

Conductor Roger L. Bingaman

Produced by Light Opera Works

At Cahn Auditorium Evanston

She’s back where she belongs!

It is fitting that 2010 ends with a marvelous production Jerry Herman’s 1964 pure Americana musical Hello, Dolly! In the hands of  the creatives at Light Opera Works, with their 24 person orchestra under conductor Roger L. Bingaman and the attention to details by director/choreographer Rudy Hogenmiller, Hello Dolly! is a tuneful old chestnut that still endures.  It is so refreshing to see the full version sans cuts with the complete cast of dancers to bring home Gower Champion’s original choreography nicely recreated by Hogenmiller.

hello, dolly! at light opera works
Mary Robin Roth

Jerry Herman’s bouncy, gay 90’s toe-tapping music is filled with memorable take-home songs that you’ll be humming for days. Herman mixes marches, anthems, waltzes with powerful ballads and lively show tunes that evoke both the era and the spirit of adventure as the characters seek  love and fun in NYC circa 1890.

We meet Dolly Levi (Mary Robin Roth), a middle aged widow and irrepressible matchmaker who “meddles” with everyone as she focuses on arranging a marriage for the tightfisted half-millionaire Horace Vandergelder (Peter Verdico).  Dolly has the perfect mate in mind – herself.

hello, dolly! at light opera works

In order for her plan to work, Dolly must help Horace’s niece get married,  thwart Horace’s interest in Irene Molloy that leads to her aiding two naive small townees, Cornelius Hackl (Robert Brady) and Barnaby Tucker (Patrick Tierney) to “find adventure in the evening air” as all leave Yonkers for a night out in NYC.

The hilarious plot is anchored by Mary Robin Roth’s Dolly Levi. She exudes a charismatic and commanding persona deftly played with brisk charm and swift humor. Roth is lovable, in charge and hilarious as the mischievous matchmaker.  Roth’s throaty vocals and impeccable comic timing is quickly established win her opening “I Put My Hand In.”  That opening number takes us into her world of enterprise as all seek love and fun.

We meet Horace, the money-hording and lonely bachelor who explains to Cornelius and Barnaby that he needs a wife not for love but to do the household chores.  After Horace leaves for NYC, Cornelius and Barnaby decide to go to NYC and they will “not come home until they’ve kissed a girl.” The resulting show-stopper “Put On Your Sunday Clothes” is the promise of fun and romance in the big city.

hello, dolly! at light opera works

The girls in the hat shop, Irene  (Jessye Wright) and Minnie Fay (Danielle Pilsz) seek a soul mate to love.  They instantly appreciate Cornelius and Barnaby who were enticed by Dolly to meet at the hat shop.  In a hilarious scene, Dolly ends up getting Horace to lose interest in Irene as well as getting Cornelius and Barnaby together with the girls and setting up her ultimate action . The act ends with  Dolly’s promise to herself in the haunting “Before the Parade Passes By.”

Act two finds the young couples courting as they walk with “Elegance” to the Harmonia Gardens Restaurant for dinner.  The “Waiters’ Galop” is a marvelous energetic, athletic and funny manic dance number. The 12 men navigate the stage in an ode to all food servers.  When Dolly Levi arrives at the restaurant she is greeted by the waiters in the memorable “Hello Dolly” anthem.  The goofy plots evolves and all get what they want as the feel-good show satisfies all. The romantic “It Only Takes Moment” sums up the feelings of all.

What makes this production stand out are two major elements – the fabulous, heartfelt and commanding work from Mary Robin Roth as Dolly. She plays Dolly with guile, charm and humor and loads of heart. Her vocals and comic chops rule the show. Roth is a wonderfully truthful Dolly.  This Dolly is a winner!

The second element that shine here is the expert dancing and the  respectful choreography. Rudy Hogenmiller’s dancers flawlessly nail each movement and each step with precession.  You’d be hard pressed to see finer show-stoppers than Hello, Dolly! provides.

It is important that every five years or so, someone mounts a full scale production of classic show such as Hello, Dolly! so the next generation can marvel at these works of art. Kudos to Light Opera Works for doing this cultural service. Come enjoy a fun family-friendly vintage Broadway musical. You’ll be humming “It So Nice Having You  Back  Where You Belong.”

Highly Recommended

Tom Williams

At Cahn Auditorium, 600 Emerson Street, Evanston, IL,  call 847-869-6300, tickets $32 – $48 – $68 – $77 – $92,, Monday, December 27 at 2 pm, (Family Matinee – Kids 1/2 price), Tuesday, December 28 at 7 pm, (Family Night – Kids 1/2 price), Wednesday, December 29 at 2 pm(Family Matinee – Kids 1/2 price), Thursday, December 30, 8pm, Friday, December 31 at 8 pm (New Year’s Eve),  Saturday, January 1, 2011 at 8 pm,
Sunday, January 2 at 2 pm, running time is 2 hours, 30 minutes with intermission.

Here are 2 numbers from the film:

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