This summer marks the 20th Anniversary of Hot Summer Nights, the annual summer theater program of the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music (CCM). One of the three classic musicals currently being presented in repertoire is a lively and fun production of the classic musical Hello, Dolly!.
As most theater fans know, Hello, Dolly! is the tale of the widowed Dolly Gallagher Levi, a hired matchmaker who also has plans to find a new mate for herself. Her affections are targeted to the "half-millionaire" Horace Vandergelder. While setting her plans in motion, Dolly also tries to think of a way to convince Mr. Vandergelder to allow the marriage of his young niece Ermendgarde to the cautious Ambrose Kemper. She also manages to find time to foster romances between Vandergelder's two shop clerks, Cornelius and Barnaby, and hat shop owner Irene Molloy and her young assistant Minnie Fay. Dolly uses her varied skills, a little deception, and her womanly ways to produce a happy ending for everyone, including herself.
The selection of a skilled actress to play the title character is very important for any production of Hello, Dolly!, and Hot Summer Nights boasts a great one in Pamela Myers, a Tony nominee for Company and a graduate of CCM. Ms. Myers sings well and brings the necessary wisdom to the role. She is a true professional and portrays the character with energy and skill. She is especially convincing in the more tender moments, but is also effective in the many humorous scenes. Also making a special appearance in this production is Gregory Procaccino as Horace Vandergelder. He sings and acts with confidence and is a nice complement to Ms. Myers. In supporting roles, Will Ray (Cornelius Hackl), Melissa Bohon (Minnie Fay), Beau R. Clark (Barnaby Tucker), and Angel Reda demonstrate fine singing and dancing, with Ms. Reda deserving of special praise. The ensemble as a whole needed a few numbers to find a comfortable pace and timing, but is talented and hard working. It should be noted that four students from Wright State University are included in the Hot Summer Nights casts in addition to the usual CCM students.
The famous score by Jerry Herman is filled with fun, melodic songs that are always pleasing to the ear. Michael Stewart's book is simple, yet well written and full of comedic gems. Director Richard E. Hess provides suitable guidance to his cast and the choreography, as provided by Greg Hellems is fun, appropriate, and energetic. The five-piece band led by Chris Fenwick performs admirably.
The set design by Mark Halpin is simple, yet effective, and includes some attractively painted scrims and set pieces. The costumes are beautiful, especially the red gown for Ms. Myers during the title song. There are some nice uses of lighting by James H. Gage for this Hello Dolly! as well. There were a few small problems with sound, such as microphones going out in a few spots, and the small band is sometimes too loud for the cast.
Hello Dolly! is one of America's classic musicals and CCM's production has a wonderful Dolly Levi in Pamela Myers and does well enough in all other areas to make for a satisfying theater experience. Hello Dolly! continues through August 12th. For tickets, call (513) 556-4183.
-- Scott Cain