Regional Reviews: Phoenix
Set in the late 1800s, the plot follows the exploits of the determined widow Dolly Levi, a jack of all trades who provides her services, which includes matchmaking, to the people of New York for a fee. Her current client is the wealthy merchant and widow Horace Vandergelder, who has hired Dolly to find him a wife. Dolly's brassy, forward demeanor and her desire to ensure everyone lives life to the fullest pulls everyone around Vandergelder, including his overworked clerks and young niece, into a day of adventure that will change all of their lives forever and have them all, including Dolly, finding romance on their journey.
Herman's score features such memorable tunes as "Put on Your Sunday Clothes," "It Only Takes a Moment," "Before the Parade Passes By," and the title number, and Stewart's lean book paints clearly defined characters, though the ending is a bit abrupt in how it quickly ties everything up. Even though the show is more than 50 years old and some of the characters and situations may be a little stereotypical or dated, the beauty of Hello, Dolly! is that almost all of the female characters are strong and determined and have complete control over what happens to them even if, at first, we believe most are simply out to marry rich or successful men. The sense of female empowerment in the show, including Dolly's desire to use any money she may come into if she marries a rich husband for the greater good and not for her own personal use, and the fact that most of the men in the show are naïve or irritable, only add to the enjoyment of this highly entertaining show and seeing powerful women, for once, in control.
Cambrian James' confident direction ensures the musical sequences soar and the comic scenes are bright and funny. The in-the-round Hale stage works perfectly for this musical, since Dolly breaks the fourth wall several times throughout the show to talk to the audience. The intimacy the venue provides also contributes to the emotional pull of the heartwarming journey Dolly and the other characters embark upon. James' dance sequences are exceptionally staged, with a wide range of varied and period steps that are delivered expertly by the talented ensemble, turning almost every one into a showstopper. The choreography also includes a few signature moves that pay homage to Gower Champion's original Broadway choreography, which were met with a huge audience reaction at the performance I attended. Brian Daily's scenic elements are perfect, including a whimsical re-creation of the steam-engine and caboose of a railroad train, and Danielle Everts' costumes feature rich fabrics and a kaleidoscope of colors. Her designs for the "Put on Your Sunday Clothes" and "Dancing" musical numbers are exceptional.
Alaina Beauloye brings the perfect blend of humor and heart to the role of Dolly. With sharp line delivery, she quickly establishes Dolly as a no-nonsense woman but ensures we see that she also has a large amount of warmth and realism. Beauloye derives a clear sense of a real woman who isn't sure if she's ready to move on with her life just yet and is just waiting for a sign that it's OK to do so. Dolly may be a forceful and opinionated woman, but we also see through Beauloye's nuanced performance that she is someone who still believes in romance and wants to make sure those around her believe in it as well. Beauloye's warm and bright singing voice provides winning performances of Dolly's songs.
Raymond Barcelo is perfect as Horace Vandergelder. While other actors I've seen in the role have made Horace mainly incorrigible and irritable, Barcelo adds elements of warmth and charm that make him quite appealing. Beauloye and Barcelo played against each other in Hale's recent production of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang as the Baron and Baroness and the natural comical connection they had in that show works beautifully here as well.
Amanda Valenzuela is a joy as the fun-loving and free-spirited Irene Molloy, Dolly's friend whom Horace thinks he might be marrying when the show begins. Her singing voice is strong and bright. As Cornelius Hackl and Barnaby Tucker, Vandergelder's overworked clerks, Vaughn Sherman and Allan DeWitt are excellent, with Sherman's soaring voice contributing to gorgeous versions of his numbers, including "It Only Takes a Moment." DeWitt's comical abilities are superb, with well thought out movements and gestures that get big laughs. Brianna McClure is a charmer as the fun-loving Minnie Fay who works for Irene, and Carmiña Garey and JT Ziervogel add some fun moments of humor as Horace's niece and her lovestruck boyfriend.
With memorable tunes, plenty of comic moments, an abundance of charm, a perfect cast, and assured direction, Hale's Hello, Dolly! is a winner.
Hello, Dolly! runs through November 23, 2019, at at Hale Centre Theatre, 50 W. Page Avenue, Gilbert AZ. For tickets and information, please visit www.haletheatrearizona.com or call 480-497-1181.
Directed and Choreographed by Cambrian James