Theatrical Review – Hello, Dolly!
By Dick Franztreb
I’ve seen all the El Dorado Musical Theatre shows for the past 5 years â€” and loved them all. But I can’t recall one that impressed me as much as did Hello Dolly! when I saw it last Saturday afternoon.
From the moment the curtain opened on a stage full of performers in motion, I was lost in the magic of this production. Then, watching Lauren Metzinger as Dolly Levi, I couldn’t believe that she is a 17-year-old girl. No, it’s impossible! She sang like an experienced professional and acted with the naturalness of a sophisticated woman twice her age, completely embodying her character. She didn’t just act; she sparkled.
Each of the other actors were similarly impressive. Ryan Van Overeem was a perfect curmudgeonly Horace Vandergelder. He is one of the finest young comic actors I’ve ever seen, and he delivered once again in this role. Zach Wilson and Justin Harvey, too, were hilarious as the comic duo of Cornelius and Barnaby â€” with some very impressive dancing. Hannah Davis was indescribably cute as Minnie, the hat shop girl, delighting the audience from her first long soliloquy and crafting her character to perfection. And for her part, Madison Sykes simply charmed us with her singing and acting as Irene Molloy.
I can’t tell you how many times I wrote the word “cute” in my notes. And if you don’t like the word “cute,” think “clever” or “endearing” or “creative” or “charming” or “funny” â€” elements in this show were all of that and more. My fellow audience members and I were tickled by, not just the funny dialog or lyrics, but by the effective ways they were staged and the brilliant ways they were acted. A perfect example is the scene where Horace and Dolly are sitting at a table in his store, and she works to plant the idea that he wants to marry her. The writing itself is incredibly clever in this scene, but it would have fallen flat without the extraordinary delivery and especially the timing of the interplay between Van Overeem and Metzinger. And it happened again toward the end of the show when the two were at dinner. The latter scene in particular felt like a comic classic that would garner millions of views if it could be put on YouTube.
All these people sang full or incidental solos, and they all impressed me. There wasn’t a single voice that was hard to listen to. And the ensemble singing was strong, too. Along this line, the program had a surprise for me. Andrew Wilson, only recently aged out as one of EDMT’s finest performers, was listed as the Vocal Director, and obviously Wilson was the same professional-quality performer in this staff role as he was in all those roles on the stage.
As so often happens in EDMT shows, a simple song became a production number. “It Takes a Woman” was one of these. Through it, I was too much in awe to take notes about what I was seeing â€” except the amazing close when performers raced out to spell “femininity” with their bodies â€” each actor a letter of the word. Of course a key element of these production numbers was the choreography, and the ensemble dancing was impressive, as always. It was especially notable in the number called “Dancing.” And another stunning bit of dancing was the idyllic dance interlude â€” reminiscent of Laurey’s “Dream Ballet” in Oklahoma!.
One element that made this show appear so true to the era it portrayed was the costumes, especially the various stunning gowns (and hats) for Dolly. As always, these were the product of the genius of Costumer Christine Martorana and of the hard work of the small army that made up her costume team.
The set also demands comment: there were extraordinarily detailed projections on an upstage screen to define the principal scenes: Vandergelder’s store, Fifth Avenue, the dress shop, and the restaurant. But the set pieces were also impressive: for example, the store had a door to a cellar, it had a second floor, a counter, and too many other details to remember. But the realism of this and the other scenes was unquestionable.
So much of the delight this show produces is the work of director and choreographer, Debbie Wilson. Every detail of the action on the stage seemed carefully crafted â€” every gesture, every movement, every position on the stage, every prop, every lighting effect â€” everything. More often than not it was for a bit of humor, and there were long sections of this show where it seemed like there was a laugh or at least a chuckle every 15 seconds. But the director’s magic is not just in creating laughs. A show without heart is missing an important element, and this show was full of heart. But more than anything, Wilson staged one eye-popping spectacle after another. The way “Before the Parade Passes By” was presented was just one of many examples that were simply dazzling. The same was true of “The Waiter’s Gallop” with performers on inline skates, doing cartwheels, even carrying other performers. It was high-energy entertainment that bordered on chaos â€” wonderful chaos. And the set-up for the musical number “Hello Dolly!” was truly amazing. The show’s biggest â€” or at least best-known â€” number got the build-up it deserved. I want to say that the choreography was outstanding, as it always is in EDMT shows. But in many of these numbers the choreography was just a part of the spectacle, and there’s no better word than “spectacle” to describe what I saw.
Some of my enthusiasm may come from the fact that I’ve never seen this show staged before. But now I feel like I never want to see another production of it. I can’t imagine another company putting on a show that is as richly detailed, professionally performed and creative as this one. And it breaks my heart to think it will be gone in two weeks. But it would break my heart even more if someone who took the trouble to read this far missed seeing it. Please â€” do not fail to see El Dorado Musical Theatre’s production of Hello Dolly! It is nothing short of a masterpiece.