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Washington DC by Susan Berlin

Hello, Dolly!

Also see Susan's review of The Mountaintop


Edward Gero and Nancy Opel
As written, Jerry Herman and Michael Stewart's Hello, Dolly! is a big, brassy, fun musical, traditionally performed with a large cast and a brightly colorful set. Director Eric Schaeffer's rethinking of the work, now at Ford's Theatre in Washington, DC, is still highly entertaining if less in-your-face, working with a cast of 16 (the ensemble comprises four men and two women) and a slimmed-down, sometimes obscure scenic design by Adam Koch.

Schaeffer is artistic director of Signature Theatre in Arlington, Virginia, well known for its reimagining of overwhelming works (for two examples, Show Boat and Les Misérables) to fit comfortably in its intimate black box space. Hello, Dolly! is a co-production between Ford's and Signature, which allows more leeway by providing a larger auditorium with a traditional proscenium stage.

Rather than opening the show with an enthusiastic chorus, Schaeffer begins with a solo voice, then adds others, finally building to the arrival of the indomitable Dolly Gallagher Levi (Nancy Opel). The actress totally inhabits the part with her wry asides, her sweet surface that barely hides the deviousness beneath, and her clarion voice. She also looks glorious in Wade Laboissonniere's costumes, both an upholstered-looking daytime costume and a sleek, subtly detailed version of the iconic red "Dolly" evening dress.

Edward Gero, an accomplished performer in both classical and contemporary roles, barely breaks a sweat as curmudgeonly Horace Vandergelder. If anything, he isn't quite gruff enough as he chastises his clerks and attempts to face down Dolly. He, like everyone else, knows what's going to happen by the final curtain.

Other standouts are rich-voiced Tracy Lynn Olivera as milliner Irene Molloy, who soars with her version of "Ribbons Down My Back"; Gregory Maheu as the wide-eyed, gawky clerk Cornelius Hackl; and Carolyn Cole, shamelessly stealing her scenes as Vandergelder's overwrought niece Ermengarde. Also, the corps of dancing waiters is small but expert as it navigates Karma Camp's blend of acrobatic leaps and tapping.

Koch's set design starts out promising—the look of an early 20th-century railroad station with dark stained paneling and a tall arched doorway—but the need to make the single setting serve for a variety of locations becomes a problem. The moving set pieces are all based on luggage wagons loaded with crates and suitcases; they don't lend themselves to serving as the display shelves in Irene's shop or the dining room at the Harmonia Gardens Restaurant.

Ford's Theatre
Hello, Dolly!
March 15th - May 16th
Music and lyrics by Jerry Herman
Book by Michael Stewart, based on the play The Matchmaker by Thornton Wilder
Ermengarde: Carolyn Cole
Barnaby Tucker: Zack Colonna
Ernestina/Mrs. Rose: Maria Egler
Horace Vandergelder: Edward Gero
Ambrose Kemper: Ben Lurye
Cornelius Hackl: Gregory Maheu
Irene Molloy: Tracy Lynn Olivera
Mrs. Dolly Gallagher Levi: Nancy Opel
Rudolph/Judge: Stephen F. Schmidt
Minnie Fay: Lauren Williams
Ensemble: Morgan Cowling, Harris Milgrim, Alex Puette, Jp Qualters, Kyle Vaughn, Merrill West
Directed by Eric Schaeffer
Choreography by Karma Camp
Music direction by James Moore
A co-production with Signature Theatre
511 Tenth St., N.W.
Washington, DC
Ticket Information: 202-347-4833 or www.fordstheatre.org


Photo: Carol Rosegg


-- Susan Berlin


Also see the Current Theatre Season Calendar for D.C.



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