HELLO, DOLLY!Book by Michael Stewart, Music and Lyrics by Jerry Herman
Based on the play The Matchmaker by Thornton Wilder
Stolen Shakespeare Guild
Director – Lauren and Jason Morgan
Musical Director – Lauren Morgan
Choreographer – Monica Glenn
Stage Manager – Olivia Hopkins
Creatives Engineer and Props Designer – Jennifer Stewart
Costume Designer – Lauren Morgan
Set Designer – Jason Morgan
Master Carpenter – Kyle Sapienza
Lighting Designer – Edward Huntingdon
Sound Designer – Jennifer Stewart and Lauren Morgan
Props Artisan – Jean Jeske
Mrs. Dolly Gallagher Levi – Tiana Shuntae Alexander
Horace Vandergelder – Stan Graner
Cornelius Hackl – Keith J. Warren
Irene Molloy – Jessica Peterson
Barnaby Tucker – David Helms
Minnie Fay – Marisa Duran
Ermengarde – Liz Shirley
Ambrose Kemper – Dillon Hanson
Ernestina/Ensemble – Araceli Radillo
Ensemble – Ash Alamo, Nina Auburn, Emily Bailey, Andy Beckman, Cooper Reed Feagan, Ashley Hawkins, Mary Lofreddo, Garrison Roller, Stephen Wykle
Reviewed Performance: 7/15/2022
Reviewed by Eric Bird, Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN
Hello, Dolly! is based on the play The Merchant of Yonkers, written by Thornton Wilder. This play was not well received, leading to Wilder later revising and retitling it as The Matchmaker. In 1964 David Merrick produced a musical version on Broadway, titled “Dolly, A Damned Exasperating Woman” and “Call on Dolly” with lyrics and music written by Jerry Hermann and a book by Michael Stewart. After hearing Louis Armstrong’s version of Hello, Dolly! Merrick changed the title to the one we recognize today Hello, Dolly!
Hello, Dolly! has been one of the most enduring musicals, having gone through three Broadway revivals. It has been successful here in the United States, as well as internationally for over 50 years. When it was first introduced on Broadway in 1964 it won 10 Tony awards, including best musical. It ran for 2,844 performances, being for a time the longest-running musical in Broadway history. Hello, Dolly! was also made into a film in 1969; this film was nominated for seven Academy Awards and won three.
The direction as done by Lauren and Jason Morgan was solid throughout the performance. The actors knew what they were supposed to be doing and they had good interactions with each other on the stage. There was a cohesive unity between the characters and the space was extremely well used throughout the production which helped to keep the story moving and enjoyable. Lauren Morgan was also the Musical Director of the production. She had a great cast to work with, the actors were solid in their musical skills, and did very well blending their voices.
The choreography, as done by Monica Glenn, was mostly simplistic but had very well-done parts. The movement went well with the characters and the actors all knew what they were supposed to be doing throughout the dance sequences. Two of the standout numbers were “Elegance,” which fit well with the characters, and also “Put on Your Sunday Clothes” which had good movement.
The design as done by Jason Morgan fit very well with the action taking place on stage. On the left was Vandergelder’s Hay & Feed Store with Mrs. Malloy’s hat shop on the right. The center was where the Harmonia Garden’s Restaurant was located, with two separate areas covered by curtains to represent private dining rooms. These were used effectively at the appropriate times. The actors were able to enter the stage from many different directions and they were able to use the set to its maximum efficiency. In the very center of the stage was a staircase that was prominently used during the Harmonia Garden scenes. All the parts of the set design worked well together giving the actors an excellent place to perform.
The lighting as designed by Edward Huntingdon was effective in illuminating the characters and the stage. The lighting was the same throughout the show, so everything was visible. Blackouts were complete and helped to visually end scenes.
Lauren Morgan designed the costumes and did a very thorough job. All characters were in period-appropriate attire, with embellishments and variations for some of the lead characters. Dolly had the nice waling suits and visiting dresses of an upper-class Victorian woman, with a flamboyant evening dress and headdress for her time in the Harmonia Gardens. Mr. Vandergelder had the suits in rich fabrics and subdued colors appropriate for a half-a-millionaire. His niece Ermengarde had youthful dresses with short sleeves to contrast the more refined suit-like outfits of the married women. I appreciated the minute details that Morgan used to distinguish between similar characters, such as the two store clerks wearing suits but with distinctive styles of hats to hint at their different ages. Morgan effectively and consistently used costumes to create the period of the show and differentiate between the characters.
Jennifer Stewart and Lauren Morgan did excellent as the sound designers; everything sounded clear. I appreciated how the music was at a perfect level, complementing the actor’s voices throughout. This show does not use any sound effects, just songs throughout the show. The music always came on at the right time with an excellent balance between the volume of the music and the volume of the actors.
Jennifer Stewart was the Creatives Engineer and Props Designer. There were several props used throughout the show, including the extravagant hats that are in Mrs. Molloy’s shop, the dishes and trays used in the Harmonia Garden’s Restaurant, and Dolly’s abundance of business cards. The props did well to complement what was going on during the show, helping to add to the entertainment and the movement.
Mrs. Dolly Gallagher Levi, the meddlesome widow who cannot help but insert herself in other people’s lives, was played by Tiana Shuntae Alexander. Alexander was dynamic in her role, bringing the iconic part of Dolly to life. I enjoyed how she interacted with the other characters onstage, always being ready with a business card to show her entrepreneurial and meddlesome experience. Alexander had an exceptionally good voice, giving excellent performances in the iconic songs “Hello, Dolly!” and “Put on Your Sunday Clothes,” though at times it felt like she was playing it safe. I enjoyed how she also brought the audience into the performance by making eye contact as she performed “Call on Dolly.” Dolly is a character that either makes or breaks a show; Alexander did well at helping to make the show an enjoyable one.
Stan Graner played the part of Horace Vandergelder, the opinionated, gruff, and very well-known half-a-millionaire who owns Vandergelder’s Hay & Feed store. Graner was a joy to watch on stage, with a strong presence that stood out, especially during the song “It Takes a Woman.” His tone clearly communicated that he always gets his way and would not tolerate any nonsense, such as when he gruffly tells his niece that she cannot marry her beloved artist. Graner had exceptionally good comedic timing and interactions with the other characters onstage. I especially appreciated how Graner interacted with the characters Cornelius and Barnaby, showing a character that is tough and very set in his ways.
Keith J. Warren played the part of Cornelius Hackl, the enthusiastic, very energetic chief clerk for Vandergelder’s Hay & Feed store. Warren was very expressive in his role, with comedic expressions and excellent movement that portrayed his character well during the dance sequences. As he sang in “Put on Your Sunday Clothes” his energy was very evident. This served as a great segue into his New York trip where he excitedly ran all over town. Warren’s energy served his character well, highlighting Hackl’s desire for change and spontaneity.
Irene Molloy, the beautiful, fun-loving milliner who owns a shop in New York was played by Jessica Peterson. Peterson has a great voice, though at times it was difficult to hear her. She had solid performances during “Ribbons Down My Back” and “It Only Takes a Moment.” Peterson did especially well in “Motherhood March,” as she had to keep jumping in front of one character to hide him from being caught. She also had good posture and poise when she was on stage.
Barnaby Tucker, Cornelius’s assistant at Vandergelder’s Hay & Feed store, was played by David Helms. Helms made his character very youthful and had good facial expressions. As he talks with Cornelius about a trip to New York, I could very easily read his thoughts by looking at his face.
Marisa Duran was thoroughly enjoyable in the role of Minnie Fay, the naïve and exuberant young lady who works in Irene’s hat shop. When Duran was first introduced outside the hat shop, the first thing that impressed me was her comedic timing. She had great interactions with the other characters on stage, making her one of the standout performances of the night. She did very well with modifying her tone of voice, from exasperation with a customer to friendly respect for her employer.
Dillon Hanson played the part of Ambrose Kemper, the struggling young artist that is seeking to marry Vandergelder’s niece Ermengarde, who was played by Liz Shirley. Though these are smaller roles, Hanson and Shirley did well in their portrayals, dancing decently during the polka competition. They were enjoyable to watch during “Put on Your Sunday Clothes” and they had good interactions with each other throughout the performance.
Ernestina Money, the eccentric woman that Dolly pairs with Vandergelder, was played by Araceli Radillo. Radillo introduced her character with the loudest, most annoying singing I could imagine. I loved it. Radillo was appropriately ridiculous in portraying this character, lacking refinement in her speech and mannerisms. I thoroughly enjoyed her performance.
The ensemble for this show helped to create the crowded feeling of New York on the stage. They bustled through a train station and marched in a parade. Their singing was surprisingly good and consistent. The ensemble dance scenes were energetic throughout. They did exceptionally well during the chaos of the scenes in the Harmonia Gardens, which involved a lot of fast choreography. I liked how they interacted with Dolly as she handed out her assortment of business cards.
There were excellent moments in this performance, with solid talent. It did seem like the actors at times played it too safe, but that did not detract from it being an enjoyable performance that had me smiling throughout. There was excellent comedic timing and interactions, making this show well worth taking the time to see. I recommend checking it out.
Stolen Shakespeare Guild
1300 Gendy Street, Fort Worth, TX 76107
Performances run through July 31st.
Fridays and Saturdays at 8 pm., Saturdays and Sundays at 2:00 pm.
TICKET PRICES for HELLO, DOLLY!
Student and Senior: $26
Thursday Nights: $20
Special Event with Show: $40
Child 12 and under: $15
For information and to purchase tickets go to www.stolenshakespeareguild.org