by Kevin T McEneaney
If you like singing and love dancing, Hello, Dolly is the place to take your soul for refreshment, entertainment, laughter, and a little sweet sentiment. This play has a long developmental history with various versions of a developing script beginning in the early nineteenth century, yet when it went to Broadway in 1964 with Carol Channing (who more fully developed the role of Dolly) in the lead role; the play was a smash success with a different title. When Louis Armstrong came out with his classic recording of the play’s songs and titled his album Hello Dolly, the play adopted that title and has been known by that name for over half a century; it remains a great American classic and it is now here at The Center for Performing Arts in Rhinebeck.
You may have seen the film version or perhaps viewed the play decades ago, yet in the hands of artful singers and fun-loving acrobatic dancers who display marvelous humor, you would be missing one of life’s delicious side-dishes. With powerful and plangent voice Amy LeBlanc plays Dolly Gallagher Levi, a witty scheming feminist determined to find happiness and love against very long odds. Set a hundred years ago, the humor of cash-in-hand remains amusing among those who wish to rise. White-bearded David Foster, as Horace Vandergelder, surprises continually at how cranky and sweet his insecure ego chugs along amid the streets of gold. The downstairs brothers-in-peril story of Ory Lopez as Cornelius Hackl and Caleb Sheedy as Barnaby Tucker drive the plot to Manhattan, along with the humorous machinations of Dolly. Lopez is an engaging singing canary with 101 intense facial dimensions that balance Dolly’s dramatic role. Sheedy exhibits a gangling anthology of amusing postures as his side-kick apprentice.
Emily Boone, as comic foil Irene Molloy, provides top-notch, sonorous mezzo-soprano performances. Olivia Michaels Bogert as Minnie Faye steals several comic scenes with her impish voice and aplomb. Courtney Constantino-Baldeh, as Ernestina, offers insouciant humor. Alison Delaney as Ermengarde offers shrill comic relief. There are thirty-three actors on stage, and they can sing and hoof it to the nines. In addition to his own acrobatic leaps and smooth taps and leaps, Dance Captain Cedric James remains the beating heart of this deliriously sublime encyclopedic footwork, no matter how many steps and swinging variations, as well as managing to arrange dozens of dancers to be in astonishing sync. There is an amazing detail in the dancing. Behind the curtain, Conductor Mathew Woolever provided crisp music for this classic track. Whoever played slide-trombone deserves some special recognition.
Here is a production that swaggers in glee that something special is going on. It is no surprise that Diana di Grandi is the producer and that Thomas Netter, as director, nails all facets in unison. The fabulous costume team of ten has outdone itself. As stage manager, Christine McCarthy invisibly works her magic. Set design by Brian Mechtly with its quick changes runs on oiled wheels.
Something astonishing happens when a mighty chorus sings and dances in unison, as they do here. Over the years The Center has attracted many talented singers and they have such a cast here. This large cast of singers and dancers has nearly twice as many backstage assistants. Most performances appear to be sold out. This production runs until May 28. For more information or tickets go to: https://www.centerforperformingarts.org.