The sold-out crowd at Venice Theatre’s tribute to this venerable musical loved every minute of the enjoyably glitzy, colorful production. Costume designers Stephanie Gift and Francine Smetts must have worked overtime creating dozens of 1880s gowns and suits, including a full-length, lace-encased wedding gown, which saw only a few minutes on the stage.
“Hello Dolly” was written by Michael Stewart, with music and lyrics by Jerry Herman, and based on the play, “The Matchmaker,” by Thornton Wilder, which opened on Broadway in 1955 and has enjoyed an illustrious, star-studded history ever since. What is less known is that “Hello Dolly” began its long life in 1835 as a one-act farce by John Oxenford, entitled, “A Day Well Spent,” then was extended to full length by Austrian playwright John Nestroy in 1842, and was first adapted by Wilder in 1938 as “The Merchant of Yonkers.” In this version, the character of Dolly Levi was expanded to its present leading role, and this change made all the difference.
Kim Kollar, through song, verse and comic timing, does a fine job with the exalted role. As Dolly, she delivers the play’s central concept with the line, “Money is like manure, it’s not good for anything unless it’s spread around encouraging young things to grow.”
The plot centers on the matchmaker’s adroit manipulation of a wealthy, penny-pinching Yonkers businessman, whom she teaches how to enjoy life and enhance the lives of others, as well. Steven Dragon is well cast in the role of cantankerous Horace Vandergelder, as are Tarah Hart as Ernestina, Sean London Young as Ambrose Kemper, Megan Starr Bartek as Ermengarde, Logan O’Neill as Cornelius Hackl, Matty Colonna as Barnaby Tucker, Bobbi Eschenbach as Irene Molloy, Lauren Nielsen as Minnie Fay, Dawn Hale as Mrs. Rose, Ted DeVirgilis as Rudolph, and Douglas Snure as the judge.
Director/choreographer Brad Wages manages the large and lively cast and puts everyone through their paces with energetic song and dance, under the musical direction of Rick Bogner. The ensemble includes Joshua Ball, Reese Cameron Balliet, Emma Bonham, Charlotte Crowley, Teri DeNiro, Katie Dunn Rankin, David Green, Brandon Michael Fleming, Charlie Kollar, Courtney McMillan, Ashley Nicole, Noelle Oxboel, Elias Ruperto and Skylar Sellitti.
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