Dolly Levi is still glowing, still crowing, and going stronger than ever as 3-D Theatricals debuts its splendiferous 2016 revival of one of Broadway’s Golden Era greatest, the record-breaking 10-Tony-Award-winning Best Musical of 1964, Hello, Dolly!
Taking the best of Thornton Wilder’s The Matchmaker, Michael Stewart’s sparklingly funny book stirs in over a dozen now-classic Jerry Herman show tunes, a mix that gets seasoned with one toe-tapping, high-kicking production number after another, all of the above adding up to a musical that remains fresh and new more than half-a-century after Carol Channing sashayed down the Harmonia Gardens staircase, a restaurantful of red-jacketed waiters welcoming her back where she belonged.
Hello, Dolly!’s titular matchmaker is of course none other than Dolly Gallagher Levi (Valerie Perri), Yonkers’ most celebrated maker of romantic matches, tops among them the one she’s got planned for herself to half-a-millionaire hay-and-feed store proprietor Horace Vandergelder (Robert Yacko) if only she can get the miserly widower to see things her way, no easy task since the grumpy old man has set his sights on half-his-age milliner Irene Molloy (Afton Quast), whom he’s headed off to New York to visit.
Meanwhile, Vandergelder’s downtrodden virginal 33-year-old head clerk Cornelius Hackl (Gary Patent) and his teenage helpmate Barnaby Tucker (Chris Villain) have planned their own overnight escape to the Big Apple, vowing not to return to Yonkers “until we’ve kissed a girl.”
As for the possibility of either clerk running into their boss in NYC, well honestly, how likely could that be in a city of a couple million residents?
Playwright Wilder and book writer Stewart make sure that the unlikely happens quicker than Cornelius and Barnaby can say “Let’s hide in the closet before Mr. Vangergelder enters the hat shop where we’ve been chatting up both its owner and her assistant Minnie Fay (Grace Yoo).”
Later, in the musical’s most celebrated sequence, Wilder and Stewart reunite all concerned at the posh Harmonia Gardens restaurant, whose pair of curtained booths offer convenient cover, though for how long is anyone’s guess.
Herman’s lyrics not only propel plot but his melodies remain among the catchiest ever written for a Broadway show, and when it’s the entire cast joining voices in exquisite Herman harmonies, the result could hardly be more gorgeous.
All of this adds up to a musical that would probably be revived as often as its fellow mid-‘60s Best Musical Tony winners Fiddler On The Roof, Man Of La Mancha, and Cabaret if only leading ladies like Valerie Perri were a dime a dozen rather than one in a million.
Under Ken Sawyer’s humor-and-heart-filled direction (with some last-minute show-must-go-on help from T.J. Dawson), the regional theater star is not only as radiant and winning a Dolly as has ever graced a proscenium stage, having Perri sing “I Put My Hand In,” “Before The Parade Passes By,” and “So Long Dearie” higher up “in Barbra’s keys” turns Hello, Dolly! into a veritable vocal showcase, and Perri’s Dolly Levi gives her fabled Evita Peron and Norma Desmond a run for their pesos and dollars.
Audiences could not ask for a more quirkily charming Cornelius than Patent, Quast makes for a particularly spicy Irene, and the duo’s B-plot romantic sparks are as palpable as their vocals are splendid.
And speaking of dance, chorus-boy waiters Michael Bullard, Nick Gardner, Casey Garritano, Max Herzfeld, Dylan Pass, Alex Sanchez, Brady Stanley, and Chad Takeda make the Leslie Stevens-choreographed title song every bit the showstopper Gower Champion intended it to be.
Shining bright in cameos are Bradley Cashman (an ever-so appealing Ambrose Kemper), Tasha Tormey (a deliciously caterwauling Ermengarde), Bonnie Kovar (a hilariously Lina Lamont-voiced Ernestina), Marc Cardiff (doing expert double-duty as head waiter Rudolph and Judge), Cole Cuomo, and Brian Overmeyer
Female ensemble members Lacey Beegun, Brittany Bentley, Hayley Cassity, Marie Guttierez, Danielle Kay, Sharline Liu, Sarah Meals, Micah Nameroff, Isabella Olivas, Christina Papandrea, and Brooke Van Grinsven are each as lovely as their dancing feet are nimble, and Southland star Stevens gives them plenty with which to dazzle.
Cast vocals (and the seventeen-piece 3-D Theatricals orchestra, musicians provided by the Los Angeles Musicians Collective) are under the accomplished baton of musical director Diane King Vann, with sound designer Julie Ferrin ensuring a crystal-clear mix.
Hello, Dolly! looks absolutely splendid thanks to John Iacovelli’s Gay ‘90s picture-book sets, Jean-Yves Tessier’s vibrant lighting, Peter Herman’s period wigs, Terry Hanrahan’s era-appropriate props, and oodles of colorful 1890s wear.
Donna R. Parsons in production stage manager and Terry Hanrahan is assistant stage manager. Ryan Ruge is assistant director, Bentley is assistant to the choreographer, and Bullard is dance captain. Jere Roach is technical director. Properties are coordinated by Gretchen Morales and Melanie Cavaness. Jessica Kuhns and Alexandra Johnson are wardrobe coordinators.
A certain Ms. Midler is set to bring Dolly to Broadway next Spring, but divine or not, she’ll have to go a long way to beat Valeri Perri’s Southland star turn, one that may have some theatergoers going to far as to ask “Carol who?” Check out 3-D Theatricals’ Hello, Dolly! and you’ll see what I mean.
Plummer Auditorium, 210 E. Chapman Ave., Fullerton.
July 17, 2016
Photos: Isaac James Creative