Dated but never out of date, the musical comedy "Hello Dolly" has
become a beloved staple of community theater stages everywhere. That
includes Orange County, where the Huntington Beach Playhouse is
staging a sparkling production that runs through Aug. 14.
With music and lyrics by Jerry Herman and a book by Michael
Stewart (based on Thornton Wilder's "The Matchmaker"), "Hello Dolly"
opened on Broadway in January 1964 and ran for nearly 3,000
performances, winning both the Tony and Drama Critics Circle awards
for best musical. The show chronicles the exploits of Dolly Levi as
she arranges people's romantic lives, including her own, in the
Originally staged by the great director-choreographer Gower
Champion, "Hello Dolly" premiered with Carol Channing in the title
role. In 1967 producer David Merrick gave the show new life with an
all-black cast headed by Pearl Bailey.
At Huntington Beach Playhouse, Selma Pinkard plays Dolly, and she
wears the role like a comfortable coat that's just been cleaned. Her
delightful interpretation of Dolly and her natural stage presence
give her an air of authority without unnecessarily commandeering the
stage and shifting focus from the action.
Director James W. Gruessing Jr. has assembled an excellent
ensemble cast to back up Pinkard. Standouts include Anne Fraser
Thomas as Irene Molloy, a millinery shop owner whose romantic
adventures are arranged with the help of Dolly. Molloy has a terrific
voice capable of belting out boisterous numbers and tender ballads
with ease. Her biography states she is in the cast of "Aladdin: A
Musical Spectacular" at Disney's California Adventure, so nabbing her
for this show was a real coup.
Thomas' real-life husband, Daniel, plays her love interest,
Cornelius Hackl, and he is a joy to watch. His expert comic timing
and energetic stage presence -- plus a nice singing voice -- buoy his
scenes and help keep the show's momentum flowing smoothly.
Michael Anthony Nozzi has fun with his role of Horace
Vandergelder, who hires Dolly to help him woo one woman but ends up
with another and another. Amy Glinskas is a hoot as the ditzy Ernesta
Money, one of Horace's disaster dates.
Kudos to Kami Seymour for the appropriately cute and clever
choreography, and to the excellent group of dancers who execute their
tricky steps with aplomb.
Now more than 40 years old, "Hello Dolly" is beginning to show its
age. Still, it's a fun show, as this production proves.
The opening night audience certainly enjoyed it -- they gave
"Hello Dolly" a standing ovation.