HELLO DOLLY!Written by Michael Stewart
Music and Lyrics by Jerry Herman
The Firehouse Theatre
Director – John Wilkerson
Musical Director/Piano – Jedda Jones
Choreographer – Amy Cave
Scenic Design – John Wilkerson
Light and Sound Design – Jason Leyva
Costume Design – Annalee Thomason, Barbara Cox
Stage Manager – Jason Leyva
Dolly Gallagher Levi – Ashlie Kirkpatrick
Ernestina – Amy Cave
Ambrose Kemper – Seth Nelson
Horace Vandergelder – John Pfaffenberger
Ermengarde – Jeena Piriano
Cornelius Hackl – David Bates
Barnaby Tucker – Sean Malloy
Minnie Fay – Chandler Bates
Irene Molloy – Rachel Massey
Mrs. Rose, First Cook – Judy Cave
Rudolph Reisenweber – Steve Cave
Stanley – Chris Clifford
Second Cook – Wilma Yarrington
Policeman – Stephen Clifford
Judge – Aaron Massey
Court Clerk – Sarah Yarbrough
Paperhanger – Chris Clifford
Waiters – Chris Clifford, Stephen Clifford, Shelley Green, Lyn Harvey, Brooke Viegut, Sarah Yarbrough, Samantha Young
Townspeople of Yonkers and New York – Caroline Cave, Judy Cave, Steve Cave, Chris Clifford, Stephen Clifford, Shelley Green, Lyn Harvey, Aaron Massey, Kelly Ramsey, Brooke Viegut, Sarah Yarbrough, Wilma Yarrington, Samantha Young
Children of Yonkers and New York – Vivien McCartney Bates, Andrew Cave*, Ian Pfaffenberger, Madison Pfaffenberger, Reagan Pfaffenberger*, Corbin Young
*perform in dance numbers
Reviewed Performance: 7/26/2014
Reviewed by Elaine Plybon, Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN
Hello Dolly was first produced on Broadway in 1964 and won ten Tony Awards, including Best Musical. The role of Dolly was originally written for Ethel Merman who turned it down. Carol Channing then took on the role and the rest is history. It has since enjoyed three Broadway revivals and was produced as a movie in 1969 starring Barbara Streisand in the role of Dolly and Walter Matthau as Horace Vandergelder. The movie was nominated for seven Academy Awards. Even the soundtrack of the production enjoyed success. An album entitled “Hello Dolly, an original cast recording” hit number one on the Billboard album chart in June, 1964, and was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2002.
The plot surrounds a matchmaker and woman-of-all-trades named Dolly Levi and her interactions with the people of Yonkers. Previously a socialite in New York City, she is now a widow and somewhat successful businesswoman in her various endeavors. Dolly has been hired by Horace Vandergelder, a wealthy Yonkers business owner, to help him find a wife. Dolly is ready to return to her old days as a socialite and sets her eyes on Vandergelder for herself. Several subplots involving her matchmaking efforts, both to benefit the people of Yonkers and to further her own plans, keep the action and comedy moving.
Scenic design by John Wilkerson was clever and functional. With rolling towers used for walls, doorways and windows, the proscenium stage easily transformed into various scenes including the inside of Vandergelder’s feed store, the millinery shop owned by Irene Molloy, and a restaurant in New York City. Across the back of the stage was a nicely painted mural depicting tall buildings in downtown New York, becoming hidden from view when the set was to depict the shops in Yonkers.
Lighting and sound design by Jason Leyva was always appropriate to the scene. The entire staging area was balanced, never leaving actors in the dark . Even with a slight glitch in the mic system during the first half, the actors’ dialogue and songs were easily understood as they performed.
Costume design by Annalee Thomason and Barbara Cox were period appropriate and plentiful, with several actors having multiple costume changes. The dresses the women wore could have easily been pieces in a museum. All were beautiful, timely and ornate. Dolly’s ruby-red evening gown during the restaurant scene was especially dazzling with its intricate embellishments.
Musical direction by Jedda Jones was evident in the well-rehearsed vocalizations of the ensemble. A large singing ensemble can often be difficult to understand, but under Jones’ direction, this group enunciated well and their tones were harmonious. Jones also played the piano in an upper level, low-lit wing.
Choreographer Amy Cave bravely designed dance routines for the fairly large ensemble, given the area of the stage. The biggest dance number was in the restaurant, where several wait staff performed the “Waiter’s Gallop” as they moved about the room, tending to guests. At times, the large group was cumbersome for the small space but each were true to their steps and had great energy.
Ashlie Kirkpatrick in the role of Dolly was not the stereotypical, larger-than-life character. Instead, her Dolly had a more whimsical and enigmatic nature. With her sly, sidelong glances, twinkling eyes and occasional toss of her head, Kirkpatrick endeared herself to the audience whilst Dolly wrangled her way into the townspeople’s affairs. Her first solo, “I Put My Hand In”, had me slightly worried, as her energy was low and the range didn’t seem to fit. However, as soon as she began the duet, “It Takes a Woman” (reprise), her vocal range was perfect and Kirkpatrick’s energy soared. Every song from that point on was flawless and mesmerizing. Kirkpatrick’s acting also shone throughout her performance. The dialog with John Pfaffenberger’s Vandergelder during the restaurant scene was impeccably timed and fun.
Pfaffenberger was extremely well-suited to the role of Horace Vandergelder. His facial expressions ranged from confusion to amazement as Vandergelder navigated through interactions with Dolly. Pfaffenberger’s vocals were somewhat soft, but nicely done. He adequately transitioned between the stuffy and pompous businessman to the easily manipulated man who was only looking for a good woman to keep his house clean.
David Bates was extraordinary in the role of Cornelius Hackl. His timing was perfect, facial expressions always appropriate, and his delivery never seemed awkward or unnatural. Bates had high energy throughout the musical and his performance stole the stage nearly every time he was on it. Bates had strong vocals, with his every number beautifully sung. I especially enjoyed his duet with Rachel Massey as Irene Molloy in, “It Only Takes a Moment.”
Massey’s voice was smooth and strong as she sang her first solo, “Ribbons Down My Back.” The emotions in her face complemented the tone of the song well. Massey’s performance as the milliner, Irene Molloy, was fun and succinct. The casting of Bates and Massey was a good call on the part of Director John Wilkerson. The two were of equal talent, both in voice and acting, their chemistry onstage was immediately evident and enjoyable to watch.
Two smaller roles, Ermengarde and Ambrose Kemper, played by Jeena Piriano and Seth Nelson, respectively, were quaintly done. Piriano, especially, cemented her performance firmly as she strolled about the stage, sobbing uncontrollably over everything. This could have been overdone, but Piriano used just enough emphasis to make a point and no more.
As a whole, the cast John Wilkerson brought together a dedicated and well-prepared ensemble. Each scene flowed smoothly and each person’s energy shone through. One of the ensemble members, Aaron Massey, created a memorable comedic role as the Judge. A character that could have been easily blasé, Massey succeeded in making me and the audience laugh, using just the right facial expressions at just the right time to elicit a hilarious response
Firehouse Theatre always seeks to provide its audiences with family friendly, quality live theater experiences. Wilkerson, the designers and the cast succeeded in doing just that with this fun production of Hello Dolly!
2535 Valley View Lane
Dallas, Texas 75234
Performance reviewed was their final evening.
For information on future shows, visit www.thefirehousetheatre.com or call the box office at 972.620.3747.