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Column

‘Dolly’ wows on stage

“Put on your Sunday Clothes” and head to the Des Moines Civic Center while the Broadway classic “Hello, Dolly!” is in town. I have seen the 1969 film version of the show, which starred Barbra Streisand in the lead role, but it had been several years since I watched it and didn’t remember it as well as I thought.

But that was a benefit to the stage production. I couldn’t help but smile when the show opened with the big group number “Call on Dolly” with all of the grand costumes and lighting. I knew I was in for an evening of entertainment from the first note. “It Only Takes a Moment” to fall in love with “Hello, Dolly!”

Set in 19th century New York, the show centers around Dolly Gallagher Levi who is a “Jill of All Trades” who mainly specializes in matchmaking. She is working a “half-a-millionaire” Horace Vandergelder who owns a successful feed store in Yonkers, N.Y. He’s a widower and wants a wife, not for love but to help manage his home. Dolly is on the case, picking a woman in New York City for him, Mrs. Irene Molloy. However, Dolly secretly wishes to marry Horace herself, so the entire show she’s leading him on a chase he doesn’t even know he’s running. It leads to lots of comedic moments that had the audience laughing all night long.  

Dolly has been performed by the likes of Carol Channing, Ethel Merman, Mary Martin and, most recently, Bette Midler. The character is truly larger than life, so you need an extremely talented actress in the role. Jessica Sheridan fit the bill, and then some. She is phenomenal as Dolly. Sheridan oozes charm on stage. You could really tell how much she enjoyed playing the character.

Lewis J. Stadlen played a great Horace. He is such a stingy, stunted character, so set in his ways that he doesn’t even give his employees a night off. Dolly pushes him in a way he’s not expecting. They have such different personalities, but they complement each other very well.

My favorite storyline is that of Cornelius Hackl, Horace’s chief clerk. He has a moment of daring and figures out how to close the shop for a day to go to New York City for adventure with his friend, Barnaby Tucker. There he meets Mrs. Irene Molloy, the woman Dolly is “fixing up” with Horace. It puts the clerk and his friend in some tight situations trying to avoid notice from his boss.

Nic Rouleau played Cornelius’ youthful exuberance for adventure so very well. I loved his singing voice. I had high expectations. In past productions, Cornelius was played by a young Michael Crawford in the film, well before he originated The Phantom in “The Phantom of the Opera.” Rouleau delivered the part perfectly.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Analisa Leaming, who gave us our Mrs. Irene Molloy. She was beautiful on stage. Her solo “Ribbons Down My Back” showed off her wonderful voice. I could have listened to her sing all night long.

“Hello, Dolly!” was the whole package. It had grand musical numbers, fantastic costuming and clever staging that transported the entire audience back to the 19th Century. One of the most impressive moments was when they had a full train engine and travel car on stage. It really was an impressive feat.

The show was a spectacle in all its glory. I can see why it has a storied history in theater. It was phenomenal. “Hello, Dolly!” will be at the Civic Center through Sunday.

Contact Pam Pratt at pampratt@newtondailynews.com

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