Hello, Dolly!

Date 5th May 2018
Society South Manchester AOS
Venue Z Arts Theatre
Type of Production Musical
Director Eleanor Ford, Stephanie Niland & Juliet Bowers Smith
Musical Director Lewis Meaden
Choreographer Michelle Drayton

Report

Author: Robert Margolis (on behalf of Kevin Proctor)

'Hello, Dolly!' is a perennial favourite, which has recently enjoyed a Broadway revival and is a popular choice with many societies. It provides the opportunity to present entertaining characters, a great deal of humour and spectacular company numbers. South Manchester AOS attacked the show with gusto, presenting a show that the audience really enjoyed.

Steph Niland, in the title role, and who also had some input as part of the director treo, gave an impressive performance as Mrs Levis. She is an extremely talented actress, able to totally engage her audience both when addressing them directly and when interacting with her fellow actors. She communicated every aspect of the humour coming from the script, her ‘ad libs’ being especially amusing. She is also a strong vocalist and tackled the music well. She commanded the stage whenever she appeared, although there were moments when I felt she could have been ‘bigger’ with some of the physical performance.

Tom Guest as Cornelius and Kallum Edwards as Barnaby also gave very strong performances. Their acting and singing were excellent and they coped well with the physical demands of the roles, especially in the hat shop scene. Tom’s monologue in the courtroom was particularly good and he also extracted the humour from the script.

Vikki Bullar as Irene Molloy and Isabella Rogers as Minnie Faye also delivered strong performances, showing some effective characterisations and complimenting their co-performers well. There were some other enjoyable characterisations from Jack Cooling as Ambrose Kemper and Helene Popp as Ermengarde.

It was a shame that Pat Massey as Horace Vandergelder didn’t quite capture the character. He is a confident performer but the lack of diction and unfortunate physical gestures meant that his character wasn’t as convincing as it might have been.

There was effective musical direction from Lewis Meaden. His reduced orchestra coped well with the demands of the score, although it is always a shame with musicals of this ilk to have to dispense with the big sound that the full orchestration offers. Despite this, the sound balance was good and the vocal performances were strong.

Choreography by Michelle Drayton went down the ‘simple but effective’ route. She presented a variety of movement but maybe the ensemble would have felt more confident moving around the stage as their characters rather than having to focus on dance moves that could have benefitted from more rehearsal.

The production focussed on the central performances above anything else which were delivered with a good pace. The set consisted of rostra which was enhanced by different panels which, eventually, switched to reveal where we were. Costumes were colourful and attractive and added to the overall picture.

Presenting ‘big’ shows in a reduced setting provides challenges. The use of a composite set was effective but given that this was the only set presented, it might have benefitted by either the use of some projections on the cyclorama at the back or some imaginative lighting. Scene changes might have been less intrusive if either the company had executed them as part of the action or the crew had been in costume. Watching crew entering during scenes or numbers wearing black was incongruous with what was happening on stage. In the Harmonia Gardens scene, if the private dining booths are not going to be used the staging needs to be made clear as we had to stretch our imaginations somewhat - Vandergelder would have been better to have sat with his back to the other four principals rather than facing them as he is not supposed to know they are there which didn't read particularly well. If using contact lenses is not possible, members of the cast who are allowed to wear glasses should be encouraged to find some that are more in period with the piece, Minnie Faye got away with it, in fact, the use of glasses brought a layer of quirkyness to her performance, but eye wear on some members of the chorus stood out as being out of style with the piece. 

The overall production was very enjoyable and boasted some excellent performances which all moved along at a terrific pace. As stated before, the audience clearly appreciated the show given the accolades they awarded the performers during the finale. I would also like to thank the society for the welcome and hospitality they offered Martin and I. We really enjoyed the evening.