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Hello, Dolly!

a Musical
by Jerry Herman and Michael Stewart

COMPANY : Georgia Ensemble Theatre [WEBSITE]
VENUE : Roswell Cultural Arts Center
ID# 4438

SHOWING : April 11, 2013 - April 28, 2013



Georgia Ensemble Theatre's blockbuster season finale brings you our first-ever classic Broadway musical. This memorable show based on Thornton Wilder's "The Matchmaker" regales us with the heartwarming story of life's second chances as maneuvered by the indomitable Dolly Levi.

Director Heidi Cline
Irene Molloy Mary Nye Bennett
Minnie Fay Kylie Brown
Dolly Levi Courtenay Collins
Ambrose Kemper Chase Crandell
Ensemble Trey Getz
Ermengarde Anna Kimmell
Barnaby Tucker Christopher Lewis
Cornelius Hackl Jeff McKerley
Ernestina Marcie Millard
Ensemble Lauren Rosenzweig
Ensemble Tucker Weinmann
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Little Shop of Dolly
by playgoer
Wednesday, April 17, 2013
There were a lot of little things I didn't like about Georgia Ensemble Theatre's "Hello Dolly:"
o The decorative figures on the set pieces that looked all the world to me like various views of Audrey II from "Little Shop of Horrors"
o Dolly's posh, mid-Atlantic accent, where "polka" contest and "poker" contest would sound the same
o Minnie pulling on her right ear during her opening monologue, making her look like she was chatting with a friend on her cellphone
o Cornelius's age, far beyond the years noted in the script (although the script was altered to omit mention of the age, copyright laws be damned)
o Elements taken from the movie, particularly the opening number, which was NOT the superior "I Put My Hand In" listed in the program
o The lack of charisma in Vandergelder, of whom it could be said "he's lumpy, but he sings"
o Slapping wigs on principals to join in on the Waiters' Gallop so that a quorum of dancers would be available

In spite of these minor drawbacks, I loved the show, as did the person I saw it with (who, truth to tell, said it was the best production of "Hello, Dolly!" he'd ever seen, although he never saw Carol Channing in the role). These classic musicals really work as entertainment when done in a way that lets the story and songs come through, and that certainly is the case here.

Stephanie Polhemus' scenic design eschews a strictly realistic approach, opting for an oval frame and sliding panels in yellow with colorful decorative figures that remind one of a turn-of-the-century carousel. Rolling set pieces make up a grand staircase and shop counters. The variety of configurations adds visual appeal. Alan Yeong's costumes and George Devours wigs add to the period feel. It's a handsome production, visually.

Aside from Daniel J. Cook's Vandergelder, the performances are consistently vital and energetic. The comic bits, either written into the script or added by the wonderful Jeff McKerley as Cornelius Hackl and the unsurpassable Marcie Millard as Ernestina Money, work beautifully to keep a smile on the audience's face from start to finish. I wasn't expecting to see Mr. McKerley as Cornelius when I heard he was in the show. I originally envisioned him as Vandergelder, and later thought he would be tremendous as Rudy, the head waiter at the Harmonia Gardens. Trey Getz was very good in that role, and Mr. McKerley made Cornelius his own. The chemistry with Chris Lewis as Barnaby Tucker wasn't all it could be, though, due to the difference in their ages.

The one principal I had absolutely no problems with was Mary Nye Bennett as Irene Molloy. She looked the part, has a fabulous voice, and played the role with complete conviction and a light touch. I might not have believed all the other actors in every moment of their roles, but I certainly did Ms. Bennett.

Musically, the show is a bit thin, with a four-person combo substituting for an orchestra. As accompaniment to the songs, that thinness doesn't matter much. It sure makes for a cheesy-sounding overture, though.

Jeff McKerley's choreography doesn't break any new ground for this show. It's pretty much what one would expect, with the dance numbers being very reminiscent of the original staging. As should be the case, the Waiters' Gallop was a highlight, with high leaps and non-stop activity.

Courtenay Collins' slim, cool elegance isn't necessarily an ideal match for the role of Dolly Gallagher Levi, but she acquits herself quite well. It helps that the trickiest part of the role has been cut. That comes when the restaurant scene blends into the courtroom scene in act two, with Dolly continuing to eat. It's a very difficult moment to carry off, and here Ms. Collins doesn't even need to try.

Director Heidi Cline McKerley has put together a "Hello, Dolly!" that should please everyone. It may be Georgia Ensemble Theatre's first attempt at a full-scale Broadway classic musical, but it's a gloriously successful attempt. [POST A COMMENT REGARDING THIS REVIEW]
When I was casting the show in my head... by Okely Dokely
I doubt I'm the only one, but I like to play a fun game where I cast shows in my head before they happen, based on the theatre/creative team/who I'd like to see/etc. And this is my incomplete list for Dolly.

Agnes Harty as Dolly
Glenn Rainey (first choice), Bill Murphey, Doug Kaye, or Tony Brown as Vandergelder
Brandon O'Dell or Googie Uterhardt as Cornelius
Not sure on Barnaby. Maybe Bryan Lee?
Jeff McK as Rudolph (we're on the same page about that one) and/or Ambrose.

No disrespect intended to anyone. I'm sure it's spectacular the way it is. I hope to come see it.


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