The Adventure Continues

TT in the Blue Mountains and Sheldy in New York.

Culture Shock.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Richard Skipper Celebrates DOLLY at Goodspeed

Goodspeed saw the light of Dolly by casting Klea Blackhurst, who told me in a previous interview that she had auditioned for various productions of Dolly over the years, but never made the grade. Timing is everything. With her being cast as Dolly Levi and Tony Sheldon being cast as Horace Vandergelder, along with Daniel Goldstein’s brilliant swift direction and Kelli Barclay’s exuberant chorography with the perfect nods to Gower Champion, and a superb supporting cast and chorus, along with the Goodpeed stamp of excellence, and you have the PERFECT Hello, Dolly!

Half way during the show, through tear stained eyes, all I could think of is how much I desire Carol Channing and Jerry Herman to see this production.
Gower has to be smiling down on this production. The Goodspeed Opera House has a small stage but thanks to scenic design of Adrian W. Jones, the space is utilized for maximum effect.
The backdrop, as people come into the theater, is a large sepia photo of the 14th Street Parade.
With the opening strains of the “overture”, the sound is as lush as the original production's Philip Lang and Peter Howard intended it to be.
(Courtesy: Goodspeed Opera House)
As the curtain/photograph rises, we see a chorus of New York natives in muted colors to match the sepia tones of the photograph in gorgeous costumes designed by Wade Laboissonniere as they instruct us to Call on Dolly for whatever needs may arise, especially in the matchmaking department. When Dolly enters, she is in a brighter orange and each of her costumes throughout match her personality.
One aspect that I have always loved with Thornton Wilder’s original The Matchmaker, which Michael Stewart carried over, is the breaking of the “fourth wall”. Goldstein’s direction extends that a little further. Dolly/Klea makes her entrance from the back of the house a la Merman in Gypsy.
As she dispenses her cards to members of the audience at the top of the show, she immediately puts us under her spell.

Klea exudes a warmth that is as if she is welcoming each and everyone as if we are old friends or ones that are about to become fast ones. These opening moments set the tone for the entire evening and makes her later descent down the stairs in Act Two absolutely believable.
Speaking of that moment, there is a playfulness that I have not seen with other Dollys since Channing.
I also have to say that the eating scene is the best that I've seen since Channing's. Klea hits a bull's eye with every laugh and, boy, that voice!

Tony Sheldon’s Horace Vandergelder is the most loveable Horace I have ever seen on stage. The
Klea and Tony in rehearsal (Courtesy: Tony Sheldon)
curmudgeon is there in all aspects of what Horace is, but you can see a loveable flirtatious underlying layer of warmth as well.

Ashley Brown, known mainly to New York audiences as Mary Poppins, is a infectious Irene Molloy. She hits all the right marks.
Spencer Moses as Cornelius Hackl harkens back to Charles Nelson Reilly as far as a comedic Cornelius is concerned.
He reminds me of Ray Bolger.Jeremy Morse as Barnaby Tucker was the perfect sidekick.
Catherine Blades is the cutest Minnie Fay this side of the original, Sondra Lee.
Regarding the afore mentioned Waiters Gallop, WOW! WOW!! WOW!!!
It builds and builds and builds to the climax of Dolly’s entrance and return to the human race at the Harmonia Gardens.

The Waiter’s Gallop is solely a Gower Champion creation. Any production of Dolly that does not take advantage of that knowledge should simply check their hats at the door. THIS Waiter’s Gallop stopped the show like none other I’ve seen. The sustained applause at the end of this segment was the longest sustained
with Melodie Wofford
applause I have heard in the theater in a long time. It was also great to see my old friend Melodie Wofford.
She lights up the stage each time she appears with a smile to rival Channing’s.
The music soars in this production. I truly wish they would record it.
Klea’s clarion voice is a marvel.

I also want to give a nod to casting directors Stuart Howard and Paul Hardt. Every person is perfectly cast. Share in the feel-good zest of the song-and-dance fun… a tremendous generosity of spirit… this whips through the theatre like a summer breeze.
This production is sponsored by Bank of America, Comcast, The Shops of Mohegan Sun, and Essex Meadows.
This production has HIT written all over it!

Thank you to EVERYONE involved in this production for the gifts you have given to the world and continue to give!


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