Fresh from Goodspeed Opera House in East Haddam, Connecticut, this is Garrett Stack on The Theatre Circuit.
All I can say is Wow, Wow, Wow, fellas – and ladies of course. What a triumphant way to celebrate 50 years of bringing professional musical theater to Connecticut. Goodspeed’s jewel in the crown for this golden jubilee is Hello, Dolly!
Hello, Dolly! needs no explanation so let’s get right into the Goodspeed production . Let me use words like flawless, thrilling, surprising, hilarious, beautiful, entertaining and oh yeah, musical.
Take a perfect musical, thank you Jerry Herman and Michael Stewart, assemble a dream cast, thank you director Daniel Goldstein, and you’ve the potential to mount a show that audiences and critics will rave about. But potential is not enough. It all has to gel and become whole. That means everyone in the 20-member cast, the 8-piece orchestra, and the dozens of behind the scenes creatives, techs, dressers and managers have to do their part and give the show 100%. Well, they all did.
Klea Blackhurst, known for her cabaret and stage performances, lights up the stage with her first entrance as Dolly Levi at the top of the show as she sings about meddling in other people’s affairs to earn a living in I Put My Hand In. You know you’re in for a treat with Klea as Dolly. Her voice is distinctive and powerful. And, her comic instincts shine. The famous eating scene is hilarious as Klea Blackhurst gives a nod to local farms by devouring fresh corn on the cob in perfect typewriter style. But that’s just the beginning.
Enter Australian actor Tony Sheldon, nominated for a Tony for his role in Priscilla Queen of the Desert, and you’ve got the perfect Horace Vandergelder who struts about and sings, and acts with just the right amount of arrogance – suited for the role. This handsome Horace, despite all his protestations ends up no match for Dolly’s crafty scheming.
Barnaby and Cornelius, played here by Jeremy Morse and Spencer Moses bring comedy to a new level in several instances especially as they prepare to blow up tomato cans and put on their Sunday clothes. And then when things are humming along famously, enter Ashley Brown – another Tony-nominee for her role as everyone’s favorite nanny, Mary Poppins. She plays Irene Malloy, owner of a millenary shop and soon to fall in love with Cornelius. Her reading of Ribbons Down My Back is exceptional as she dreams of what life will be like this summer.
The iconic Harmonia Gardens Restaurant scene, where Dolly returns after a long absence and is worshiped by a group of handsome waiters singing the title song, is the showstopper it deserves to be. Staircase, red dress, waiters in tux shirts, bow ties and vests – it’s musical comedy at its best.
I wish I had the time to give all the cast and the thousands of details the notice they deserve. But let me comment on the brilliant sets by Adrian Jones who was able to create the illusion of this really big place on this really small stage that was beautifully lit by Jason Lyons. Costumes? Well the gay 90’s in New York with bustles and buckles and big hats and shoes. It’s all there thanks to Wade Laboissonniere.
The orchestra sounded like way bigger than it actually was and the sound balance between cast and pit was perfect. Such a pleasure when it’s done right.
The Goodspeed Opera House experience is most often magical, but this Hello, Dolly! is absolutely enthralling - every scene, every moment.
Before this parade indeed passes by, get tickets for the Goodspeed Opera House 50th anniversary production of Hello, Dolly! Dolly will be in East Haddam, Connecticut all summer, through September 14.
On the Theatre Circuit for WMNR, I’m Garrett Stack.