Hello Dolly

Date 12th October 2023
Society St Pauls Musical Theatre Company
Venue Gladstone Theatre
Type of Production Musical
Director Brenda Davies
Musical Director Sian James
Choreographer Alli Bentley-Jones
Producer Brenda Davies
Written By Jerry Herman

Report

Author: Joanne Rymer

Hello Dolly

St Pauls

12/10/23

Hello, Dolly! is one of the last great musicals from Broadway's “golden age,” which ran roughly from the mid-1940s to the mid-1960. Michael Stewart created the book for the musical Hello Dolly, while Jerry Herman wrote the music and lyrics. The story is a comedy and it was first produced in 1964 for the Broadway stage. It was based on the play The Matchmaker by the famous playwright Thornton Wilder.

Hello Dolly is a well-established well-loved musical.  Living in New York at the turn of the century, Dolly is a self-professed meddler, a matchmaker administrating the romances of her friends and clients. She also teaches dancing, gives mandolin lessons, and basically any job that is needed. Determined to catch herself a husband she utilises her matchmaking talents to do just that, in the form of the very rich Mr Horace Vandergelder. There is only one problem she has been commissioned by the half-millionaire to find him a wife, and has arranged a match with a milliner in New York City. Undetered, she sets out to orchestrate her own happy ending.

Rebecca Luetchford is a delight as Dolly Levi, she has a fine voice, a great sense of fun, displaying great stage presence, she plays this comedic role with extreme confidence. The songs of course are legendary and Rebecca gave us a splendid rendition with not only the title number (Hello Dolly) but also a heart-warming ‘Before the Parade Passes By’, a song that has to be one of the most rousing closing numbers to a first act ever.

David Oliver playing the corn and seed merchant Horace Vandergelder gives us a wonderful grumpy almost scrooge like character who feels he needs a woman in his life. Davids’s duo with Rebecca ‘It takes a Woman’ is a cracker. Horace sets off the New York to appear in the parade and find a wife, leaving his underpaid store assistants Cornelius and Barnaby to watch the store.

The comic duo, Cornelius and Barnaby, played by Terry Lacey and JP Watts are a tour de force. Creating an excuse to close the store they set off to the Big Apple, where they meet hatmaker Irene Molloy, Marie Williams and her assistant Minnie Fay, Nicole Palka, with a dollar or so between them they pretend to be rich.  A special mention here to a young JP Watts, great comic timing a fine performance from this talented young man. One to be watched. Cornelius falls for Irene Molloy; Barnaby soon falls for Minnie Fay. Marie Williams has a beautiful voice, which is highlighted in Mrs. Molloy’s solo, “Ribbons Down My Back.” A lovely performance. A highlight for me ‘It only takes a Moment’ an amazing rendition from Terry Lacey. Wonderful comaraderie between Terry and Marie - lovely to see.

The extremely talented Nicole Palka, playing Minnie, also stands out with her fine acting and smooth, pretty vocal. One to watch for the future. In addition to these budding romances, Vandergelder’s niece, Ermengard, Libbie Bentley Jones (will she ever stop crying) wants very much to marry Ambrose Kemper, Jacob Mc Elvogue a young artist. Uncle Horace is opposed to the union due to Ambrose’s chosen career. In typical Musical theatre fashion misunderstandings and complications unfold allowing Dolly the opportunities to juggle everything to her own romantic ends.

With a large ensemble Brenda Davies’s direction keeps everything moving along nicely, great stage work from Jenny Kings property team. Choreographer Alli Bentley Jones has cleverly used uncomplicated routines as not all the cast members are trained dancers. It was noticeable to the audience that everyone on stage was giving their all to this production, great to see. Absolutely loved the Harmonica Gardens, the ‘Waiters Gallop’ very impressive well done to all concerned. The set was perfect for this production, sympathetic use of projection, scene changes flowed, good use of the curtains. Mention to technical Director Richard Lee and crew, Derek Boseley, Roy Milne and Alan Turner. Praise to Jenny King and Jean Sanchez for wardrobe, and Northern Costume Hire they were splendid, creating wonderful costumes from the era, but almost everyone has more than one costume change, I think Dolly has four or five!!

We all know how a musical is more than the principal players, the experienced chorus in this production did an amazing job, it is impossible to mention you all individually you were all splendid. On the Thursday evening I attended this performance it was noticeable that the undoubtedly talented orchestra tended to overpower the chorus voices which was a real shame. I took the decision to speak with the musical director Sian James of my concern in the interval

Hello Dolly is gentle and warm-hearted musical entertainment, St Pauls Musical Theatre has delivered it well. Perhaps you could say it is old fashioned, even ‘old hat’ by todays modern musical themes, but tonight at the Gladstone Theatre Port Sunlight it was a delight, judging by the audience’s response they loved it.

Another successful and truly entertaining evening. thank you for inviting me, I am looking forward to the next one.

 

Joanne Rymer

NODA

District 4