Grand Prairie Arts Council
Director – Adam Adolfo
Music Director – Eric Camarillo
Choral Director – Jason Solis
Scenic Designer – Matt Betz
Lighting Designer – Jordan Fetter
Costume Designer – Eric Criner
Choreographer – Maegan Marie Stewart
Sound Design – Steven and Chelsea Monty
Stage Manager – Michelle Phillips
Dolly Levi – Kristin Spires
Horace Vandergelder – Richard S. Blake
Irene Molloy – Georgia Fender
Cornelius Hackl – Jacob Harris
Minnie Fay – Erin Hardy
Barnaby Tucker – Jeremy Coca
Ambrose Kemper – Matthew Brandon
Ermengarde – Rachel Herod
Cook – Rodney Hudson
2nd Cook – Trey Cardona
Court Clerk – Chris Ramirez
Stanley – Jason Solis
Ernestina – Rachael Blizzard
Mrs. Rose – Joan Eppes
Judge – Paul Steffey
Rudolph Reisenweber – Tim Studstill
Principal Dancer – Lindy Jones
Principal Dancer – Andrew Bullard
Pianist – Debra Young
Electric Drums - Randy Lindberg
Woodwinds – Lisa Book
Woodwinds – Phil Phagett
Trumpet – James Warden
Trombone – Dennis Klophaus
Bass – Joe Feldstein
DANCE ENSEMBLE – Jordan Brewer, Trey Cardona, Brandi D. Giles, Chandler Houston, Rodney Hudson, Haven Isom, Chris Medina, Chris Ramirez, Jason Solis, and Ginny Wheeler
ENSEMBLE – Rachel Blizzard, Joan Eppes, Monica Flatley, Denise Jasper, Gina MacLellan, Meghan MacLellan, Terry MacLellan, Maria Nieto, Paul Steffey, and Tim Studstill
Reviewed Performance 6/14/2014
Reviewed by Scott W. Davis , Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN
Dolly is on the prowl again, looking to teach someone how to dance. She may be fifty- years-old now but she hit’s the boards on Grand Prairie’s Uptown Theatre stage like she was twenty five all over again.
Hello Dolly is based on the play The Merchant of Yonkers which was written in 1938 by the great Thornton Wilder. Seventeen years later, he revised and changed the name to The Matchmaker. The 1964 production opened January 16th, 1964 at the St. James Theatre and was filled with a brilliant cast including Carol Channing as Dolly, and a supporting cast that included David Burns as Horace, Charles Nelson Reilly as Cornelius, Eileen Brennan as Irene, Jerry Dodge as Barnaby, Sondra Lee as Minnie Fay, Alice Playten as Ermengarde, and Igors Gavon as Ambrose. Dolly hit the record books hard, breaking or setting records that hadn’t been beaten for years. Hello Dolly was nominated for eleven Tony Awards that year and won ten, tying South Pacific for the most awards. That record stood for thirty seven years until 2001 when The Producers took twelve Tony Awards. It ran for almost seven years straight, closing on December 27th, 1970 after 2,844 performances.
I, as a theatre history buff, got extremely excited when I read the Director’s notes in the program. Adam Adolfo talks about approaching the show as if we had never heard or seen it before, which had me waiting in anticipation for the start of the musical. All you could see preshow were two street lamps sitting in the cross isle of the theatre. The curtain was closed and wasn’t lit so it was hard to see anything beyond the center aisle. The overture started and I was ready to go, anticipating the curtain’s opening after the overture and the show to start. But no, they did a lengthy curtain speech after the overture. It was just weird.
When the musical finally got started, the curtain opened to reveal Matt Betz’ set design, which was very minimal. Upstage in front of the cyclorama was a three foot tall platform with a stairway in the middle that spans the entire width of the stage. There were four moving columns made to look like steel girders, and the rest of the set was unit pieces that rolled on or off with each scene. There were ramps rising into the house, which gave Mr. Adolfo several places onstage in which to make entrances. The design was very well thought out, though, for the size of the cast. “Call on Dolly” is the first musical number that includes the entire ensemble, and there was barely enough room for the number, even with the open staging area. The technical phase seemed hurried so that some things got sloppy heading towards opening night. The lack of continuity between the different moving parts made the entire production looked hodge-podge.
The sheer number of people onstage created huge challenges for Lighting Designer Jordan Fetter. During the first number, people were blocked on the far ends of the platform and by the street lamps with no light on them whatsoever. Anytime there was action out in the house, there was never any light on the actors. The two moving lights seemed out of place and used inconsistently. I couldn’t figure out why they were there if they were trying to keep period with the piece. The sidelight being used in the show was extremely overpowering and over saturated to the point of canceling out any front light being used and making a lot of the scenes difficult to see. A director I used to work with had a saying that kept popping into my head throughout the musical: “Scott, the show is absolutely beautiful, but is there any way we could see the actors?”
Costume Designer Eric Criner did a fabulous job dressing this huge cast. Everything was period correct and the fit on all the dresses was impeccable. The only thing missing which would be period to the time was bustles, but all in all the costumes were just beautiful. The red dress that Dolly wears in the second act was a show stopper. Horace Vandergelder’s suit was incredibly well tailored and fit Mr. Blake like a glove.
Music Director Eric Camarillo had a lot on his plate with this one. While I found some of his directorial choices interesting, like using electronic drums on a period piece, the majority of the music was good. There were a few times here and there when the tempo seemed to drag a little, but the company carried it through. The rest of the band seemed to gel well with each other. It was nice to hear woodwinds and horns in the historic Uptown Theatre.
Maegan Marie Stewart’s choreography was beautiful to watch. While having more of a classical look to the numbers, she also stepped outside the box slightly with some very physical choreography. Lindy Jones and Andrew Bullard really took her steps to another level with their intricate dance breaks throughout the show. The entire dance ensemble should take a bow for the incredible job they did conveying Ms. Stewart’s vision.
The acting in the musical had it’s ups and downs. Topping the list of greats was Kristin Spires’ portrayal of Dolly Levi. I’ve seen a couple of musicals Ms. Spires has directed but this was the first time I’d seen her on stage. WOW, she was just fabulous to watch, and vocally impressive to listen to, spot on with pitch through every number. Her ability to harmonize with the other two ladies during the song “Motherhood March” was impressive but she pulls out all the stops with the title song “Hello Dolly” in act II. While her dancing was limited, she was extremely fluid in her motion.
Her male counterpart, Horace Vandergelder, is portrayed by Richard S. Blake. Mr. Blake really did a good job with this role. He took Horace slightly more to a comedic level with his facial expressions. Every time he raised his eyebrow you just had to laugh. His trained voice worked well for the character and his line delivery was spot on. He proved he could dance as well during his number “It Takes a Woman”. The only flaw was some pitch problems during both “It Takes a Woman” and the “Finale Ultimo” .
Horace’s apprentices, Cornileus Hacket and Barnaby Tucker, are really the gems of Hello Dolly, and Jacob Harris and Jeremy Coca took the comedy to another level with these two characters. Their first scene has the song, “It Takes a Woman” with Horace where they keep popping up out of the trap door. The comedy never stopped from that point on. Harris and Coca both took well to the slapstick style of humor that Mr. Adolfo added to their boutique scene. They also played well off of their characters’ counterparts, Irene Molloy and Minnie Fay.
Georgia Fender, as Irene Molloy, took center stage in Act One with her solo, “Ribbons Down Her Back”. Her vocal ability with her solos and singing harmony with the rest of the cast was brilliantly executed, and her acting was a blast to watch.
The trio of women that took this show up a notch wouldn’t be complete without Erin Hardy’s portrayal of Minnie Fay. During the song “elegance” she shows her ability to sing but really it was her movement throughout the boutique scene was amazing to watch. The blocking through that entire scene was extremely tough and intricate but she does a wonderful job with it.
Jason Solis must have been a busy man. Not only was he in the dance ensemble but he was the Choral Director as well. This man needs a hand. A cast of thirty is hard enough to direct but to direct their vocals to harmonize the way they did had to have been a challenging job.
There were some good points to this production of Hello Dolly and there are some not so good ones. The lady sitting next to us actually asked if this was a high school production. Unfortunately, the 1890 costumes, the1900 set, the 1987 band, and the 2000 lighting doesn’t add up to a 2014 hit.
Grand Prairie Arts Council
120 E. Main St., Grand Prairie, TX 75050
Runs through June 22nd
Friday at 8:00 pm, Saturday at 2:00 pm and 8:00 pm, and Sunday at 2:00 pm
Tickets prices range from $11.00 to $22.00.
For more information visit: http://www.artsgp.org or call 972-237-8786.