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HELLO, DOLLY! Book by Michael Stewart; music and lyrics by Jerry Herman; directed by Bernie Cardell. Co-produced by Performance Now Theatre Company and the Lakewood Cultural Center (presented at the Lakewood Cultural Center, 470 South Allison Parkway, Lakewood) through April 9. Tickets available at 303-987-7845 or tickets@lakewood.com.

HELLO, DOLLY! Is like FIDDLER ON THE ROOF in that in between viewings, you forget all the great music each show contains. Just think of “Before the Parade Passes By,” “It Only Takes a Moment,” the wonderful title song and many other joyful melodies that move the story along as only Jerry Herman can. One of the most-produced musicals, the current Broadway revival starring the Divine Miss M herself —Bette Midler—with David Hyde Pierce as Horace has already racked up $40 million in advance sales before its April opening. Everybody loves Dolly!

Our own Ms. Levi is returning Liz Larsen, a Christine Baranski look-alike with a beautiful voice and the command of the stage required for this role. If you’ve got a good Dolly, most of your troubles are over as a director. And director Cardell has a good Dolly. She meddles with the energy of a bumblebee; she charms with the speed of a hummingbird; and she allows Dolly to be both irritating, whimsical and solid—all at the same time.

Liz Larsen as Dolly Levi
Photography by RDG Photography

 

Dolly is a matchmaker who, while intent on solidifying matches between three young couples, is also determined to make a match for herself.  She’s been a widow too long, and asks her late husband’s blessing as she goes after half-millionaire Horace Vandergelder. Of course, the path of love never runs smoothly; confusion and chaos ensue, but Dolly irons out everything, and everyone leaves with their own true love. It is, after all, a musical comedy and needs a happy ending.

The remaining cast members are up to the task of supporting Dolly in her quest. Michael O’Shea plays Horace with a frown on his face and a twinkle in his eye. While he’s gruff on the outside, you know even before he does that he’s going to succumb to Dolly’s charms.  Andy Sievers, a PNTC regular, returns as Cornelius, the head clerk from Vandergelder’s Hay and Feed, while Melanie Horton plays his love, Irene Malloy. The bouncy Kalond Irlanda returns as the second clerk from the store, courting Caitlin Zigler as Minnie Fay, a milliner in Irene’s hat shop. The remaining 22 members of the ensemble sing and dance their little feet off in a variety of roles. How wonderful that PNTC can fill a stage the way they do!

Hello Dolly! Ensemble
Photography by RDG Photography

PNTC also has a signature look to the technical aspect of each production. There is never any more scenery on the stage than is absolutely necessary to tell the story. The crew slides pieces off and on stage with remarkable efficiently and economy of movement. Moving a large show into a venue on the Monday before you open on a Friday could be a disaster waiting to happen. But the technical team producer, Ken Goodwin, managed to make opening night look as professional as closing night. The lighting design by Vance McKenzie is especially good for this show. As always, Cindy Franke’s costumes sparkle and make every cast member look good. Dolly’s beautiful costumes are variations in black and white, with each one looking especially tailored for her.

Liz Larsen as Dolly Levi
Photography by RDG Photography

 

When you’ve seen as many Bernie Cardell shows as I have, you begin to recognize some of the little touches that add detail and depth to his directing. A moment here, a movement there and it all comes together with a grace that wasn’t there before. Pair that with the always brilliant choreography of Kelly Van Oosbree and a winner is guaranteed. The trademark of Kelly’s dance moves is  . . . that there is no trademark. She treats each show as an original and incorporates steps from the era within which the story takes place with her own twist on the style. This show uses polkas, waltzes, marches, ballet and Broadway-style dancing to great effect in every scene. The cast makes it look so easy that it seems you could go up on stage and join them. (After the show, the dancers admitted that it was a workout but they loved it.)

The ONLY downside to a PNTC show is that they only run three weekends and that they sell out quickly. Their popularity increases as more and more people discover this little hidden gem. So run, do not walk, to get your tickets to this winning show. Can’t wait to see what they do with THE WEDDING SINGER, their next show in June.

WOW factor: 9.5