Encore’s “Hello, Dolly!” Spirited and Brimming with Talent

If a night of high-energy entertainment with poignant and elegant touches entices you, The Encore Musical Theatre Company’s Hello, Dolly! is a perfect evening of theatre. The 1964 musical tells the story of a widowed matchmaker, Dolly Levi, who feigns setting up famed Yonkers half-a-millionaire Horace Vandergelder with a wife, while planning to marry him herself. Along the way, she manages to sprinkle thoughts of love over several others, wreaking havoc and creating new partnerships, all in a highly entertaining couple of hours.

Jerry Herman’s music is sublime, and Michael Stewart’s book is filled with delightful quips. At times, Hello, Dolly! shows its age, with such lines as “Marriage is a bribe to make a housekeeper think she’s a householder”, which got a boo from the opening night audience. But mostly, it holds up as a delightful romp that gives us hope for a world full of more love.

Love the cast

A uniformly excellent Encore cast includes Keith Kalinowski as the deliciously grumpy and gruff Horace Vandergelder, exhibiting just the right amount of character change throughout the show to become lovable by the end. Sarah Brown, as the graceful, mischievous and honey-voiced hat shop owner Irene Molloy, is paired well with a sweet and bouncy Doug Atkins, seemingly a little too young to play Cornelius Hackl, who, nonetheless, finds the proper mix of gravitas and vitality in the musical.

Cole Thompson, playing Cornelius’ nervous but exuberant coworker Barnaby Tucker, and Katy MacCutcheon, as Irene Molloy’s easily excitable (read: frequently screaming) shop assistant, are well-matched, offering some hilarious moments as the more comedic of the two young couples. Anna Dreslinski Cooke’s character, Ermengarde, is another comic gem, hysterically crying at, well, everything, and showing off some beautiful dancing with the exuberant Connor Giles as Ambrose. Mitchell J. Hardy, Angela Hench, Bryana Hall, Dale Dobson, Isaac Orr and the rest of the superb ensemble each earn the title of “triple threat”.

Well, Hello Dolly

Despite the talents of the cast, the bulk of the show belongs to, and is carried by the Dolly Levi character, and boy, does Marlene Inman carry it. Vocally, she’s made a name for herself in more operatic roles, such as her Wilde-Award-winning turn as Francesca in the Dio’s The Bridges of Madison County. Here Inman is all brass, shining bright while hardly ever showing off her magnificent opera voice. Her character’s comedy is bold without being overbearing, but, in her quieter moments, such as the tender and loving monologues where she addresses her late husband, Inman really shines.

When I first heard that the Encore was doing Hello, Dolly!, I assumed they would get a big name from out of town to star as Dolly, but was pleasantly surprised and excited to hear that Inman was cast as Dolly Levi. Seeing Inman hold the audience in thrall—or in stitches—it is clear that no better choice could have been made to fill the part. A bonus is seeing her interactions with Kalinowski, her real-life beau; their witty banter at the beginning and softer moments toward the end, are some of the more touching moments of the show.

All aspects of the production’s design— lighting, sound, set, costumes—were well balanced and attuned to the talents of the actors: grand enough to honor their work without upstaging them. The orchestra sounded full and bright, if slightly underprepared. The musicians sat on stair-like platforms to one side of the stage, which was a nice effect, but took away from the already limited space the actors have on the set to move around.

Despite some amusing mechanical mishaps, the production hummed along nicely, thanks in part to the steady guiding hands of director Jamie Colburn, choreographer Rachel Constantino, and music director Casey Baker. By the end of the performance, all I could do was quote the show, saying “Wow, wow, wow, fellas”.

Encore Musical Theatre Company’s “Hello, Dolly!”

3126 Broad St, Dexter, until December 23rd.

For tickets and more information, please visit www.theencoretheatre.org.

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