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THEATER REVIEW:Say hello to a superb 'Dolly'

May 30, 2007

When a musical wins 10 Tony Awards on Broadway, that is quite an accomplishment, but it means any professional theater that puts on a revival has a reputation to uphold. Not to worry — the new production of "Hello, Dolly!" at the Glendale Centre Theatre does the original work justice.

Right from the start, Dolly Levi (Alison England) hands her business cards to several audience members sitting near the stage, a clever gimmick that draws spectators into the proceedings.

Through several monologues to her late husband, Ephraim, we learn of her plan to use her matchmaking skills to land one of her clients, the well-known Yonkers "half-a-millionaire" Horace Vandergelder (Richard Malmos) for herself.


Since Dolly has already introduced Horace to New York milliner Irene Molloy (Cynthia Marty), and he intends to propose that afternoon, Dolly must quickly undo what she's started. In addition to being a matchmaker, Dolly's job is to meddle, and Horace thinks everything and everyone is foolish, so these seemingly opposite types are meant for each other.

Fortunately, Horace's chief clerk, Cornelius Hackl (Jim Meade), has spent most of his "33 and three quarters" uneventful years longing for something different, so he and co-worker Barnaby Tucker (Chris Villalobos) head off to the big city to spend money, find adventure and fall in love — in no particular order.

Not coincidentally, Dolly tells them to call on Irene and her assistant, Minnie Fay (Emily Coddington) so all the calamity can work itself into everyone ending up with their intended partners.

The show demands strong leads, and the principal players deliver the goods. Dolly's oversized persona masks a woman longing for companionship and England's range — both acting and singing — makes it work. You know this Dolly is not going to let any parade pass her by, amusingly confirmed by the way she handles a turkey leg.

Malmos makes Horace, who correctly describes himself as "rich, friendless and mean," a likable curmudgeon. Particularly notable in his supporting role is Meade, who captures the combined naïveté and enthusiasm of Cornelius very nicely.

Director Mark Knowles should be credited for taking the limited confines he's given and managing to fittingly create the grandeur of a big-scale show. He's aided by lighting designer Jeremy Williams, who illuminates the proper scale in various settings. The simple sets and colorful costumes capture New York of the 1890s most authentically.

The small cast uses its best advantage in such musical numbers as "Put on Your Sunday Clothes," complete with the required train.

And even with only a half-dozen waiters dancing and back-flipping around the Harmonia Gardens restaurant, this group doesn't disappoint with the title song.

With the welcome she's given, why would Dolly ever go away again?

  • PHILLIP HAIN is a Glendale resident who did not use a matchmaker to find his wife of almost 18 years.

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