Thursday, May 31, 2001
When the staff of the Lawrence Community Theatre went searching for a summer musical to stage, they didn't have to look very far. In fact, they went straight to the record books and selected "Hello, Dolly!" ï¿½ one of the most popular, enduring shows in American theater history.
"It's a world-class musical comedy and one of the most awarded Broadway shows, and it has absolutely fabulous music," director Mary Doveton says.
She isn't exaggerating. Based on the Thornton Wilder play "The Matchmaker," "Hello, Dolly!" was adapted into a musical by Jerry Herman and Michael Stewart. It received the New York Dramatist Circle Award, the London Dramatist Circle Award and 10 Tony Awards during a 7-year Broadway run that encompassed 2,844 performances.
It's big and brash and bold, and it brings the house down. But putting "Dolly!" on the LCT stage will literally fill the house, not only with the audience attendance, but also the performance area itself.
"We got such tremendous response with staging a musical in the summer we thought we would do it again this year," Doveton says. "But it's a huge risk to stage a show of this size, with its props, costumes, scenery and dancing. We find it a challenge, but it's one that's well worth the effort."
The story revolves around the titular character, a busybody widow who makes her living as a meddling matchmaker in 1890s New York. Her latest undertaking is to pair up a rich Yonkers merchant with a widowed New York milliner. The plot really takes off when Dolly decides to double-cross her client and marry the millionaire herself.
Featuring boatloads of humor and insidiously catchy showtunes, "Dolly" goes on to tell how she wins her miserly beau, liberating his niece and employees in the process, all in one wild night on the town in New York's Harmonia Gardens.
Lead actors include Annette Cook in the title role, along with Charles Whitman, Ryan Hamlin, Philip Denton, Becky Ford-O'Keefe, Mia Goldsmith, Summer Eglinski, Brenton McCall, Jill Troupe and Lisa Greenwood.
Staging such a lavish production calls for an inventive eye when it comes to finding available space at the LCT.
"Jack Riegle, our scene designer, has just created an outstanding design for the space allowed. He utilizes the space by reposition different pieces, and that works very well," Doveton says.
The show also differs from other musicals in that it features a constant flow of action from one scene to another. That means the running crew headed by Andy Brown has to know its cues as well as the actors. To streamline the effort, Riegle has crafted flip panels with various background scenes on them. The panels can stay in place and are flipped over to show a different locale.
With so much work and choreography involved, the company is taking a full six weeks to mount the production.
"No matter how many weeks you schedule, it always seems to be one week short," Doveton says with a laugh. "This is a very intense six weeks."