The Column Online



Lyrics & Music by Jerry Herman, Book by Michael Stewart
Based on “The Matchmaker” by Thornton Wilder

Denton Community Theatre

Co-Directed by Julie Brinker & Clay White
Music Director- Rebecca Lowrey
Choreographer – Brandon Harvey
Stage Manager – Patrick Murphy
Assistant Stage Managers - Tammi Nuoci, Melissa Moore
Costume Designer – Elsie Barrow
Milliner – Mendy Hunsaker
Millinery Consultant – Betty Ann Barrow
Wigs – Lona Wolfe
Sound Designer – Chelsea Reeves
Light Designer – Kathryn Fullbright
Art Director – Pete Kelly
Property Design – Connie Hay

Piano – Rebecca Lowrey
Reed 1 – Randy Honeycutt
Reed 2 – Koryn Orcutt
Reed 3 – Kristen Thompson
Reed 4 – Allison Suding
Reed X -Thomas Kmiecik
Trumpet 1 – Carlos Strudwick
Trumpet 2 – Rachel Madden
Trumpet 3 – Harrell Petersen
Trombone 1 – Ethan Wills
Trombone 2 – Scott Aant
Violin 1 –Robert Amberson
Viola – Teresa Bloemer
Cello/Bass – Sara Bollinger
Drum Set – Randy Linberg
Keyboard/Bells – Pam Holcomb-McLain
Guitar/Banjo – Scott Morse

Dolly Levi – Stephanie Felton
Horace Vandergelder – Pat Watson
Cornelius Hackl – Brett Ellis
Barnaby Tucker – Eric Ryan
Ambrose Kemper – Logan Coley Broker
Irene Molloy – Diane Powell
Minnie Fay – Brooklyn Smith
Ermengarde – Leanne Finnegan
Ernestina Money – Channing Stephens
Rudolph Reisenweber – Damon Wadyko
Mrs. Rose – Laura Michaels
Judge – Lindsay Keffer
2nd Cook/Court Clerk/Chorus – Gary Fulton
Stanley/Chorus – Jacob Campbell
Dance Captain/Chorus – Siri Hammond
Policeman/Chorus – Terry Nobles
Parade Marshall – Tim Harbour

Amanda Guerrero, Aaron Martin, Brooke Benefield, Carla Day, Dayle Sunshine Brown, Emma Hay, Geoffrey Calfee, Holly Chant, Jessica Crouse, Jessica Phillips, Daniel Davenport, John Davenport, Jonathan Charles, Kate McDonald, Kelli Pistokache, Lisa Ferguson, Luke Knittle, Marley Knittle, Shannon Rivoire, Stephanie Rosie, Rae Perry, Una Faye Usborne

Reviewed Performance: 4/5/2014

Reviewed by Amy Thurmond, Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN

“Hel-lo, Dol-ly, well Hel-lo, Dol-ly”…The tune came to mind, didn’t it, when you heard that?! Did you start to hum, tap your foot, maybe even sway a little? I most certainly hope so! But whether you know the tune or not, make your way to Denton Community Theatre to see a spirited and harmonious production of, “Hello Dolly!”. This gem of musical theatre has a long, celebrated history and poignantly proves what most of us already know… Musical theatre is one of the greatest culminations of artistic expression to endeavor to undertake and to experience. When it’s done well – well – your heart just melts. DCT’s production team and staff exemplify that endeavor, and deliver that experience, with gusto!

The journey of the story that has become what we today know as, “Hello Dolly!”, is incredibly fascinating. I think most noteworthy is the fact that Michael Stewart’s book for the show is based on 3-time Pulitzer Prize winner, Thornton Wilder’s play, “The Matchmaker”. When “Hello Dolly!” opened on Broadway in 1964, it had been through many rewrites, revisions, retitles…a whole rebirth, basically. Like many works that go through such a transformation do (this one began its journey in 1835), “Hello Dolly!” was a Broadway hit, walking away with TEN Tony Awards!

Set in 1890’s New York, this precious musical masterpiece pairs the professional, highly dedicated matchmaker, Dolly Gallagher Levi with crabby, awkward shop owner (and well-known-half-a-millionaire), Horace Vandergelder. Dolly is on a mission to find Horace a wife (though he has no idea she fully intends to be that wife). Dolly’s devotion to her matchmaking is never put on the backburner as she persists in pairing every single individual she meets including Mr. Vandergelder’s clerks, Cornelius Hackl and Barnaby Tucker; his gushing niece, Ermengarde; her long-suffering, artist boyfriend, Ambrose; Irene Molloy and Minnie Fay, the milliner and her millinery assistant working in the big city; and every other single man or woman she meets!

As the lights came up at the Campus Theatre, the set appeared simple and full of friendly faces, those one might meet walking down the street in the early 1900’s, a nice blend of folks from every generation. From the first note of beautiful music, the orchestra was a true highlight of the evening. SO many cherished Jerry Herman tunes ringing throughout the theatre melted this reviewer’s heart. Musically speaking, the show was exquisite. It is a rare treat these days to find a 17-piece orchestra playing for a community theatre production.

Sound designer, Chelsea Reeves, had a huge chore in the fine balance of dialogue, orchestral musings, powerhouse vocals, enticing ensemble, whispering whimsies and effects, breathing and movement, dancing feet, stomping feet, squeals and shrills and puppy dog tails… That’s a bit extreme, true, but it seems to run the gamut of all that had to be so finely balanced. There were significant distractions with the body mics throughout the performance. Their placement on the actors’ faces seemed to be precisely the worst option for most every actor wired. Dolly’s mic was particularly sensitive, and I dare say almost unnecessary with her power. The audience was promptly notified every time Dolly gestured, turned her head or breathed. To the other end, Horace’s mic was most definitely necessary and often too soft (so much so that we missed entrance and exit lines often). The music bounced merrily around the Campus Theatre and won out over the distractions regardless. Excited faces, energetic dancing and crisp, melodious singing filled the theatre, number after number.

Due to the heavy activity onstage, the set pieces were mobile and suggestive primarily. The one large center piece that turned 180° to allow for the major scene changes was a nice center for most scenes and well planned. The set pieces functioned well and were gracefully moved by crew as well as cast (some scene changes even done while dancing). Art director, Pete Kelly, and Props Designer, Connie Hay, clearly worked hand in hand to create the most period set possible using common sense, modern-day materials and true grit. During Act Two, the audience was greeted by the most expensive restaurant in NYC, The Harmonia Gardens. The private dining rooms within the grand dining room were draped – but with curtains…Elegant they were not. They are staged to be dramatically opened – and – closed - on queue – all as a matter of timing and comedy. Actors struggled to get them opened and closed smoothly and in a timely manner. This resulted in actors delivering lines behind closed curtains. It was awkward to watch. But they persevered, and the curtained dining rooms were really a minimal irritation in the middle of an exciting scene.

Stephanie Felton as Dolly Gallagher Levi dominated the stage as such a woman should. Just recently she won the 2014 COLUMN Award for Best Actress in a musical (Non-Equity) in the critically acclaimed smash hit Spamalot (GLCT). Quick witted, powerful in presence, gentle in slight and full of graceful charm, Felton created a Dolly Levi that won’t soon be forgotten. She has a silky yet bold voice that tiptoed over such tunes as “Before The Parade Passes By” and “Put On Your Sunday Clothes” and belted skillfully through “So Long, Dearie” and the most memorable of tunes, “Hello Dolly”! Felton’s timing and mere presence evoked a smile easily. Addressing the audience throughout the show, talking to her late husband, Ephraim Levi, Felton makes Dolly a real woman that you cheer for, you wish well, and that you probably know. Her scenes with Horace Vandergelder, played by Pat Watson, were nagging, maternal and slyly seductive.

Pat Watson who portrays Vandergelder, found his ground at the end of Act One. His scenes with the clerks in his store at the beginning of the Act were what one would expect who knows the show. But he often came across as flat out mad versus crotchety. He warmed nicely to Dolly and, like I mentioned, finally held his own by the end of Act I. In Act Two, Watson seemed like an old pro. Vocally, Watson warbled a bit, giving off an air of uncertainty. But timing and effort were right on the money. In his role as a protective uncle to Ermengarde, he was absolute and determined. Only by love did he melt…love for Ermengarde and…love for Dolly…even love for Cornelius and Barnaby.

Cornelius Hackl and Barnaby Tucker, played by Brett Ellis and Eric Ryan, were a delightful duo. Perfectly paired, also, were Irene Molloy and Minnie Fay, played by Diane Powell and Brooklyn Smith. The quartet was super sweet and well blended. Where one lacked, another excelled. Where one dipped, the other soared. Ellis lacked a full-body presence, coming off as unsure at times. This seemed almost plausible as Cornelius is somewhat mild-mannered. His scenes with just Ryan, however, were not even. But add Powell and Smith into the mix, and he seemed to find his way with ease. The quartet operated as a unit and beautifully so. Individually, all four of these talented folks warrants special mention. Ellis portrayed Cornelius’ innocence with a genuine glow that garnered him great response from the audience. He seemed like a real young man in awe of the potential of the love of a good woman. Ryan as Barnaby was without a doubt the highlight of the night for this reviewer. When someone possess a pure joy, it radiates out of them whether they want it to or not, and Ryan has that joy. His stage presence lit up every corner of the house. He exudes natural talent. There simply isn’t a question. The kid’s got talent, and performing brings him joy! A showstopper performance came from Diane Powell as Irene Molloy. Her rendition of “Ribbons Down My Back” drew her audience in and held them close. She portrayed a strong, independent woman who finds love in the most happenstance of ways. Powell’s scenes with Felton were a bonus of goodness! Brooklyn Smith as Minnie Fay rounded out the quartet and showed a naivety unique to this ensemble. Appropriately dressed in pink throughout the show, Smith was pretty and sweet and the ideal match for Ryan’s Barnaby.

The outstanding ensemble work warrants great mention. So many stand-outs throughout any scene! Ambrose, played by Logan Coley Broker, is delightful as he the artist attempting to learn to dance to win the prize to marry his love, Ermengarde. Jacob A.Campbell was the highlight of the chorus. He sang and danced, acted without words, projected energy every time he walked (or danced) on that stage! The children’s ensemble, the Bob Newhart look-alike…the beautiful ladies and the handsome men who made up the chorus are as much the stars of the show as Dolly!

Choreographer Brandon Harvey brought a wealth of knowledge and experience to this classic. Like Felton, Harvey also earned a COLUMN Award this season for his choreography in GLCT’s Spamalot. His choreography for Dolly was both bright and fun. It is no easy task he undertook. The grace of the waltz is a discipline, and untrained dancers often find it challenging. ONE-two-three-ONE-two-three…It sounds so simple…but oh, how it is not! Harvey knew this, I am certain. The trained dancers most definitely stood out, but in an ensemble, does that really matter? I think not so much. Bravo to every person who danced on that stage Saturday night! Trained for a lifetime or trained for 8 weeks, the blend of talent and skill levels worked. The energy the opened the show was the same energy that closed the show. The weakest link was supported by the strongest link, and such is the accomplishment of a true ensemble.

Perfectly coiffed wigs and stunning hats complimented the fabulously gorgeous costumes. Favorites of the night were Irene’s captivating ensemble for the Harmonia Gardens scene, Irene’s hat for “Ribbons Down My Back” and Dolly’s delicious red gown and red-feathered-black-tipped hat! Truly all of the ladies’ hats were beautiful and warrant special mention. Milliner and Millinery Assistant, Mendy Hunsaker and Betty Ann Barrow outdid themselves!

Co-directed by Julie Brinker and Clay White with musical direction by Rebecca Lowrey, this team put up a grand show. It’s almost become a running theme in this review, but White’s direction for GLCT’s Spamalot earned him the 2014 COLUMN Award for Best Director of a Musical (Non-Equity).

The singing was outstanding (have I mentioned that a few times?)! The music was a feast for the ears! The character development and staging are memorable and vivid. There are so very many words of wisdom, encouragement and love in both the dialogue and lyrics. I wish I could share all of them with you. From the initial idea to auditions, from rehearsals to opening night and through strike (the dissembling of the set at the end of the run), it is the coordination, talent, determination and LOVE that creates art. Go see “Hello Dolly!” at Denton Community Theatre! I promise you will fall in love with something – a character in the show, a costume, a hat, a song, a dance, the ORCHESTRA….or ALL OF THE ABOVE! There is something beautiful playing in Denton, and it’s “Hello Dolly!”

To encourage you even more to go see this show, I shall leave you with a few words from Dolly Gallagher Levi…To her late husband, she says, “…Ephraim, let me go! It's been long enough, Ephraim! Every evening for all these years I've put out the cat, I've locked the door, I've made myself a little rum toddy and before I went to bed I said a prayer thanking God that I was independent, that no-one else's life was mixed up with mine. Then one night an oak leaf fell out of my Bible. I placed it there when you asked me to marry you, Ephraim. A perfectly good oak leaf but without color and without life. And I suddenly realized that I was like that leaf....for years I had not shed one tear nor had I been filled with the wonderful hope that something or other would turn out well. And so I've decided to rejoin the human race....”

Ah, such a beautiful sentiment!

Denton Community Theatre
214 West Hickory, Denton, Texas 76201
Runs through April 13

Thursday/Friday/Saturday evenings at 7:30pm, Sunday at 2:00pm. Ticket prices range from $9.50 - $22.50
Please call 940/382-1915