Friday, September 25, 2009

REVIEW: Hello Dolly!

When a quest for love and adventure is in the air, you can bet Dolly Gallagher Levi will work her magic on it.

She did during the Manatee Players’ latest production of “Hello Dolly!”

The Tony Award-winning musical, directed by Ty Yadzinski, features the jack-of-all-trades widowed matchmaker. But after countless match making, she’s ready to settle down again. She has her eyes on rich entrepreneur Horace Vandergelder.

While plotting an elaborate plan to win his heart, she works on the hearts of other characters in the show in hopes of making their dreams come true, too. The bulk of her match-making takes place with Horace’s employees, Cornelius Hackl (Steve Dawson) and Barnaby Tucker (Zachary Vance Hlavac). They decide to take an unauthorized night off from work, heading to Yonkers for an ultimate adventure. Cornelius, who, at 33, sees life passing him by, vows that he will finally have his first kiss with woman.

The ever-helpful Dolly sends Cornelius and Barnaby to the hat shop of Mrs. Irene Molloy, who happens to be the love interest of Horace. A tangled web of love and adventure ensue.
Dianne Dawson spins her charm and lightheartedness over the show as Dolly. But much of the show’s charisma comes from the other leads. Standout Cliff Cespedes plays an impressive Horace, full of ornery. The hat shop scene and Horace’s other exchanges with Dolly definitely tickle the funny bone.

Steve Dawson’s whimsicalness as Cornelius also breathes life into the show as well as the endearing Caitlin Longstreet, who plays Minnie Fay, Mrs. Molloy’s employee. Tina Gilbert displays an air of grace and good vocals as Mrs. Molly. Besides Cespedes, the other standout in this production is Hlavac, who grabs many laughs as the naive, wide-eyed Barnaby. He and Steve Dawson are a delightful pair of sidekics in this show.

Joy Lakin also received a few chuckles as the over-emotional Emengarde — Horace’s young niece, who wants nothing more than to be married to her sweetheart.

The parts of the lighting design also makes “Hello Dolly” alluring during moments of the show, illuminating through the backdrop like a Thomas Kinkade painting — particularly in the opening scene at the train station.

Audiences will also enjoy the waiters’ stunts during the Harmonia Gardens Restaurant scene.
The rest of the ensemble did a fairly nice job as well, though I would’ve liked to see more smiles and a little more energy in their steps for some of the musical numbers.

Overall, “Hello Dolly!” and its well-cast actors will leave you with a smile.

-January Holmes

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