Music and Lyrics by Jerry Herman, Book by: Michael Stewart
Based on The Matchmaker by Thornton Wilder
Granbury Theatre Company
Assistant Director—Jonah Hardt
Music Director—Ashley Green
Scenic Design—Devon Kleine
Costume Design—Eme Looney
Lighting Design—Whitney Shearon
Sound Design—Samuel Culp
Mrs. Dolly Gallagher Levi—Susan Metzger
Horance Vandergelder—Patrick Gass
Cornelius Hackl—Jacob Myers
Barnaby Tucker—Kendrick Booth
Irene Molloy—Haley Twaddell
Minnie Fay—Maryclaire Ramirez
Ambrose Kemper—Gavin Clark
Rudolph Reisenweber—Ben Rongey
Mrs. Rose—Allison Stankey
Ensemble—Avery Arnett, Ema Arthur, Laura Booth, Chris Brewer, Brooke Goodson, Connie Ingram, Matthew Leake, Josh Martin, Michele Mastick, Renee Maynard, Cameron Moore, Jennifer Orcutt, Dan Powderly, Ben Rongey, Kate Rongey, Jason Stanfield, Sally Stanfield, Allison Stankey, Jay Tasker
Reviewed Performance: 2/26/2023
Reviewed by Genevieve Croft , Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN
A perennial favorite of community and educational theaters, Hello, Dolly! has been produced on the stage since 1964. The story has origins dating all the way back to 1835 English play “A Day Well Spent,” then serving as Thornton Wilder’s inspiration in 1938 for “The Merchant of Yonkers.” The play flopped and was retooled as “The Matchmaker” in 1954. With the success of the “The Matchmaker,” a film version was made in 1958 starring Shirley Booth (you might recognize this name as the meddling maid, Hazel from the 1960’s sitcom). In 1964, Jerry Herman and Michael Stewart collaborated and the final product was “Hello, Dolly!.” Originally written with Ethel Merman in mind as the titular character, Merman turned the role down, as did Mary Martin (although both eventually ended up playing the role of Dolly Levi in subsequent productions. From Carol Channing to Bette Midler, and Betty Buckley in stage versions to Barbra Streisand in the 1969 musical film adaptation, “Hello, Dolly!” has become a stalwart of American musical theatre-still entertaining audiences as much today as it did in 1964. Not only has the musical been a hit on the stage, but many musical artists have covered the title song in varying genres. Popular renditions have been recorded by likes of Louis Armstrong, and Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass.
“Hello, Dolly!” has won its share of awards, taking home three Tony Awards in 1964 for Best Musical, Best Book of a Musical and Best Original Score. In 2017, “Hello, Dolly” won the Tony Award for Best Revival of a Musical, further solidifying its place in the archive of popular musicals.
Set in the turn of the 20th century, “Hello, Dolly!” centers around matchmaker-for-hire, Mrs. Dolly Gallagher Levi, and her attempt to create a match for local Yonkers General Store owner and well-known half-a-millionaire Horace Vandergelder (while trying to nab Vandergelder for herself). Meanwhile, Dolly works with Ambrose Kemper to secure the hand of Vandergelder’s niece, Ermengarde for marriage. Vandergelder is vehemently opposed to this match, as Kemper’s vocation as artist is not financially stable. As if it wasn’t complicated enough, the second subplot involves Vandergelder’s two store clerks, Cornelius and Barnaby, decide to also travel to New York City to experience big city life, having the time of their life eating well, spending all their money, and looking for women. Put it all together, and it is the perfect formula for any Broadway musical!
Director Tracie Griffiths brought together a wonderfully talented ensemble cast that worked well together and collaborated with a crew who clearly took their jobs seriously and knit together design elements that enhanced the story being told by these outlandish characters. The overall vision of the production was executed well. As I have come to expect with many productions at Granbury Theatre Company, the music direction, and the choreography were stellar. Music, under the direction of Ashley Green and Choreography, under the leadership of Eden Barrus was not only impressive in skill and was visually stunning. Each element of the ‘big 3’ in the musical (acting, music and choreography) worked very well together. There were some fantastic visual elements that were staged, that were absolutely stunning. I was very much impressed with the train scene, where umbrellas were spun in such a fashion to simulate the wheels of the train, and with staging during the musical number, “Elegance,” where it appeared that Cornelius and Barnaby were traveling down the streets of New York City with the women they were courting (Mrs. Irene Molloy and Minnie Fay). The trees and buildings were moved slowly back and forth to give the allusion of a moving scenic walk. Absolutely brilliant! These scenic elements were nothing more than a two-dimensional suggestion of a tree or building-and it worked perfectly for the necessity of the scene.
Another fantastic element of staging was the constant use of the house/audience seating area used as a thoroughfare throughout the production, and the use of integrating the audience in the pre-show. It was immersion theatre at its finest with the train station patrons, barber shop quartet (in the quintessential red and white Mr. Peppermint style blazers) and the parade of Suffragettes demanding equality and Votes for Women.
Scenic designs were done by Devon Kleine. The scenic designs were simple, but effective. They never distracted from the action or the characters telling the story but provided just enough suggestion to keep the action moving. From beautifully three-dimensional painted backdrops to the delightful use of color and texture used throughout, I was instantly transported to the early 20th century- a time that was simple, but also elegant.
The best scenic element was the use of two round and “private” booths in the Harmonia Gardens Restaurant. It was great to see the important action, and hear the humorous dialogue highlighted each bit of action between Vandergelder and obnoxious date, Ernestina. I enjoyed seeing the early 20th century beading, and sheer curtain to indicate privacy-but also enjoyed some delightful silhouettes of the action unfolding. Another scenic element worth mentioning is Vandergelder’s General Store. From the antique gold cash register, to the small tins of “cure-all” powders and tools in in the display windows. It truly put the time period in perspective, and the set was dressed down to each minute detail.
It wouldn’t be “Hello, Dolly!” without the use of a grand staircase. Kleine certainly delivers in this aspect. The grand staircase leading from the exterior door of The Harmonia Gardens Restaurant to the floor seating area was marvelous! It provided the grand entrance that Dolly required upon entrance and set up the delightful and most recognizable title song from the musical. Overall, sets were pleasing to the eye, and were simple, yet functional.
Costumes were designed by the talented Eme Looney. The clothing was indicative of the specific time, but also served the exact purpose required by costumes, to set time and place, and to visually represent the personality and motives of each character. I wish that hats and gloves for men and women would make a legitimate comeback. To me, this signifies a different time, a time when everyone would dress to the 9’s to go anywhere-especially the theatre! The hats were gorgeous! It is extremely evident that a great deal of thought and detail went into the millinery of this production. I loved the use of color, texture and feathers that adorned the hats.
Other standout elements of costumes were the women’s dresses and the men’s suits. It makes me so sad to see how our society dresses down so much these days. Wardrobe was a status symbol, and it was definitely evident in this production. There was so much care and attention put into costumes-from the choices of color for each character, to the historical accuracy of the Suffragettes, the police, and the barbershop quartet, it is evident that Looney did the research and really painted the picture for audiences through wardrobe.
Susan Metzger was incredibly believable in the role of Dolly. Through facial expression, body language, and impeccable comic timing, Metzger convincingly portrayed matchmaker extraordinaire, Dolly Gallagher Levi. Metzger never faltered in her delivery, and all interactions with other cast members were believable and spot on. Her voice was most impressive-it filled the vast space of the Granbury Opera House. Being that the Granbury Opera House has historic roots, I would imagine that her performance would be similar to what one would expect if the musical was produced during the turn of the 20th century in Granbury. Metzger commanded the stage, and really carried the production with her interpretation of Dolly Levi. Such a difficult role to play! Metzger did it with grace and finesse…and what a belter!
In the role of Horace Vandergelder was Patrick Gass. Gass did a wonderful job in this role, the grumpy, yet well-off store owner. Gass had some nice comic moments on stage with his ensemble, and great chemistry with Metzger. While not the strongest solo voice in the ensemble, Gass was able convincingly portray the character of Vandergelder with facial expressions and huge comic relief. Gass had intermittent microphone problems throughout the production so, perhaps his voice may be stronger when the technical elements cooperate.
Jacob Myers and Kendrick Booth were fantastic in the roles of Vandergelder’s naïve store clerks Cornelius Hackl and Barnaby Tucker. The chemistry that each of these actors had on stage with each other and with the ensemble was impressive. Both actors incorporated comic facial expressions and a wonderful boyish charm to these roles playing romantic interests to Irene Molloy (played by Haley Twaddell) and Minnie Fay (Maryclaire Ramirez). Bravo!
I cannot conclude this review without mentioning the absolutely most obnoxious, but humorous characters in the story. Ermengarde (Danielle Cisco) and Ernestina Money (Brooke Goodson). Cisco’s character was consistently crying and wailing in sadness for not being able to marry Ambrose Kemper (Gavin Clark)-and I do mean consistently. Cisco carried it off throughout the entire production.
Goodson, on the other hand was the best comedic foil to the whiny Ermengarde. Goodson had the best laugh! Rarely speaking many lines, she Goodson stood out as a comedic player and carried the obnoxiousness of her character throughout. When I say obnoxious, I mean obnoxious. Imagine Lina Lamont’s voice (Singin’ in the Rain) mixed with the Elmer Fudd laugh. I had it ringing in my ears for hours after the show. Brava, Ms. Goodson, you kept me laughing throughout.
This production of Hello, Dolly! is definitely worth seeing. Whether you are a novice or veteran musical theatre lover, Hello, Dolly! is certainly one you need to add to your repertoire of productions. Overall, it was an entertaining production. The variety of talent on stage mixed with the energy, enthusiasm, and charisma from the ensemble provides a fun experience at the theatre.
You will be surprised to find a rare convention of musical theatre in the end of the production, as the production concludes, you will hear a short medley of all of the musical numbers recapping the production. I absolutely love this! It sums up the end of each character’s story, while preparing the audience for the company curtain call.
To quote the well-known title song, “You’re looking swell, Dolly. We can tell, Dolly. You’re still glowing’, you’re still crowin’, you’re still goin’ strong”, and this production is definitely goin’ strong. Showing until March 26 at the historic Granbury Opera House. Then, “Dolly” returns back to the stacks of the musical theatre archive until next time.
Granbury Theatre Company
Broadway on the Brazos
133 E. Pearl Street
Granbury, Texas 76049
Plays through March 26.
Fridays at 7:30 pm
Saturdays at 2:00 pm and 7:30 pm
Sundays at 2:00 pm
Floor $35 - Balcony $30
Discounts available for seniors (aged 65+), active duty military/veterans, and
Group discounts available through Box Office at (817) 579-0952.
To purchase tickets, visit http://www.granburytheatrecompany.org