Also see Robert's review of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof
Stages St. Louis rings down the curtain on their 2005 season with a color-filled and energetic reading of the Michael Stewart-Jerry Herman warhorse Hello Dolly! starring the incomparable Zoe Vonder Haar, with Bob del Pazzo as Vandergelder, David Schmittou as Cornelius, and Kate Dawson as Irene Malloy. There are plenty of good reasons (aside from the show’s appeal as a star turn for the great divas of the musical stage) for the enduring popularity of Mrs. Dolly Gallagher Levi’s matchmaking machinations, chief of which is the score, one of the most consistently tuneful this side of Gershwin. You have to be pretty cynical not to find the book's triple romance appealing, and it’s not a bad thing that Dolly’s romancing of Vandergelder shows once again that it’s never too late for love.
Director Michael Hamilton takes a risk by letting Dolly have the stage alone for the first act closer “Before the Parade Passes By,” turning it into an anthem rather than a flag-waver. His decision speaks volumes about the respect he has for Miss Vonder Haar, and the fact that by herself she fills the stage and the hearts of the audience in a way that any number of marching or dancing chorus people could not says far more than any praise I could write about her talent and her incredible stage presence.
Mr. Del Pazzo brings a spring to the step of the old skinflint Vandergelder, managing with aplomb the difficult task of convincing us that Dolly could find him attractive for anything but his money. David Schmittou is adroitly ungainly and altogether charming as Cornelius, and Kate Dawson makes a lovely and graceful Irene Malloy. Melissa Bohon is marvelously appealing as the pretty and peppy shopgirl Minnie Fay.
Dana Lewis’s choreography doesn’t break any new ground, but pulses with energy throughout; there is plenty of splash in the beautifully staged Harmonia Gardens scene, including of course the title song, and plenty of charm in the big first act number, “Put On Your Sunday Clothes.” The sets, by Mark Halpin, are elaborate and polished, and Lou Bird’s costumes are dazzlingly colorful if sometimes a bit over the top.
Try as you might, it’s hard to find anything not to like about Hello, Dolly!, even if you’ve seen it a dozen times, and it’s especially hard not to like this production, bright and lively and filled to overflowing with the warmth and brilliance of Zoe Vonder Haar.
The production of Hello, Dolly by Stages St. Louis will run through October 9 at the Robert G. Reim Theater in Kirkwood; for tickets and showtimes, call the Box Office at 314-821-2407.