Sandy Cohrs in Hello Dolly!
Photo-As Yet Unnamed Theatre Company
Book by Michael Stewart
Music & Lyrics by Jerry Herman
Based on The Matchmaker by Thornton Wider
Directed by Elaine Hackett
Review by Keith Waits
Entire contents copyright © 2014 by Keith Waits. All rights reserved.
Hello Dolly! Is one of those shows that gives one pause to see a local company take it on, partly because it is a musical that demands a certain degree of scale and splashy staging for full effect, particularly in “Before the Parade Passes By”, and the title number, but also because Dolly Levi demands a star turn from someone with diva swagger and very few fit the bill. No shrinking violets allowed.
It finds its diva in Sandy Richens Cohrs. If one of the reasons actors start their own theatre companies is to play favorite roles, then we can hardly deny Ms.Cohrs her Dolly. Bold, brash and manipulative, but with a heart more tender than might be expected, it is a role well-suited to this actress’s strengths and she delivers.
As for the splashy staging, well, that is harder to come by on a modest budget, but the ensemble works hard to substitute energy and determination for production values. The lengthy Harmonia Gardens sequence in act two still lacks the dazzling, athletic choreography that made it a legendary showstopper, but the cadre of waiters (Brad Lambert, Brian Barker, Aaron Davenport & Chris Williams) carry off their carefully constructed moves with style and verve and Dolly’s famous grand entrance is made memorable enough.
The songs by Jerry Herman stand the test of time and nicely evoke the turn-of-the-century period. The principals are all in good voice, but the ensemble also sings in well-balanced harmony in numbers such as “Put On Your Sunday Clothes”.
Jeremy O’Brien and Brandon Michael Stewart as Cornelius and Barnaby have the feel of a real team in their scenes together, with shared comic timing and sharp exchanges of dialogue. Carrie Chastain and Hannah Clore are also an effective pairing as Irene and Minnie Fay. The quartet, “Elegance”, is given a sharp delivery by the four performers, and Ms. Chastain does well by her solo, “Ribbons Down My Back”.
The remaining cast do good work, with Edward Adamson a fine Horace Vandegelder and Eric Sharp a gangly-limbed Ambrose Kemper. Becky Pierce goes for broke in her small role as Ernestina, with Jessica Tanselle Saucedo and Gary Tipton providing able support.
Elaine Hackett’s direction is solid and distinguished by an attention to detail; little asides and bits of business that raise the level of the overall performance and place this production just enough above the ordinary. Hello Dolly! Is a much beloved musical, but the material can seem dated and awkward at times. The score and the main character remain appealing enough, but it requires a group with talent and feeling enough to win an audience’s affection for Dolly all over again. I think we can count this production as one that does exactly that.
March 28, 29, April 4,5, 2014 @ 8:00pm
March 30 & April 6, 2014 @ 2:30pm
As Yet Unnamed Theatre Company
At The MeX
501 West Main Street
Louisville, KY 40202