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Hello (again), Dolly!
In all honesty, I had never seen the musical “Hello, Dolly!” on stage. I did not remember seeing the 1969 Oscar-award winning movie starring Barbara Streisand, Walter Matthau, and Michael Crawford … until I heard “Call on Dolly” April 28 at EPAC’s opening of “Hello, Dolly!” The whole storyline came flooding back to me and I was excited to be at opening night of this classic musical.
“Call on Dolly! / She’s the one the spinsters recommend / Just name that kind of man your sister wants,” sang the chorus of townspeople.
All of the sudden the memory flooded back. I was living in Maine with my future wife-then fiancée-who had the film on VHS. She produced the movie from her collection after being shocked by the fact I knew nothing about it. At the time, I was starring in a musical in college, and Maine being Maine, our rehearsal was canceled due to a heavy snow storm. We had free time. We popped the tape in the VCR and I met Dolly as snow coated our entire town white. Last Thursday was a fine spring day, and EPAC’s rendering of the 1964 Broadway hit went off with barely a hitch.
We meet Mrs. Dolly Gallagher Levi (EPAC regular Tricia Corcoran); the matchmaker of all matchmakers is in New York City looking to find the perfect wife for the grumpy and stubborn “half-millionaire” Horace Vandergelder (Bruce Weaver). The successful business owner runs a hay and feed store and is bent on stopping the marriage of his niece, Ermengarde (Heidi Carletti), to an artist named Ambrose Kemper (Preston Cuer). Vandergelder is intent on proposing to hat shop owner Irene Molloy (Stacia Smith) who runs into Vandergelder’s workers, Cornelius Hackl (Nick Smith) and Barnaby Tucker (Dylan Caligiuri). During an impromptu day off, Hackle and Tucker play big shots and find themselves going to an expensive dinner with Molloy and her assistant Minnie Fay (Jennifer Amentt). In the meantime, Dolly has convinced Vandergelder to meet the available Ernestina Money (Karey Getz), knowing full well he will be repulsed by her inappropriate and brash behavior. You see, Dolly has her sights on Vandergelder the whole time. All goes awry and the whole lot find themselves in the clutches of the court by evening’s end. Everyone except Vandergelder is found not guilty. Love triumphs.
Ermengarde and Ambrose are minor characters in the production, but Carletti commands the attention of theatregoers through her overly dramatic crying fits. She’s hilarious. But the comedic highlights of the show come from the shop-workers Hackl and Tucker. The duo presents a comedy of errors — better yet, a comedy of circumstance — which drives the show as much as the main character herself. Smith, seen at EPAC as Emcee in “Cabaret,” Sky Masterson in “Guys & Dolls” and Leo Bloom in “The Producers,” channels some kind of inner Steve Martin to give an honest and hysterical performance. He and Caligiuri team up to create an uproarious debacle in Mrs. Molloy’s hat shop in scene three of act one. These actors are not alone in their brilliant performances. Amentt’s Minnie is super funny, with lines delivered perfectly. Stacia Smith’s voice commands the stage, especially during beautiful numbers like “Ribbons Down my Back.”’
A special mention should be made for costume designer Shelby Lionella, choreographer Buddy Reeder, and lighting designers Jeff Cusano and Michael Wiltraut; these elements of the show stood out. During the number “Put on Your Sunday Clothes” an impressive display of lighting changes the mood as performers dance in beautiful pastel suits and dresses; it is the theater equivalent of eye candy.
EPAC’s “Hello, Dolly!” also has an impressive use of choreography during scene changes, with actors flipping, twisting, and cartwheeling about the stage. I also wanted to acknowledge the ballet demonstration put on by ensemble member Amelia Blanchard. I still cannot understand how people can walk, let alone dance, on their toes!
Directed by Edward Fernandez, “Hello, Dolly!” is a rollicking good time. Once again, Fernandez has tapped an impressive talent pool to cast an EPAC performance. The ability to call on performers like Corcoran to don the larger-than-life roll of Dolly is a wonderful asset. She can carry a show with her abilities without having to go over the top; her performances are real and flawless. There is little chance of getting snowed in from now until “Hello, Dolly!” closes on May 14, so excuses are few not to enjoy this American comedic classic at the Sharadin Bigler Theatre. A live performance is much better than an old, overused VHS tape.
Tickets to “Hello, Dolly!” can be purchased online at ephrataperformingartscenter.com, or by calling 733-7966.
Michael C. Upton is a freelance writer specializing in arts and leisure. He invites your comments and suggestions at facebook.com/SomebodiesProductions.