Arts & Entertainment
A Compact 'Dolly' For 'Snug' Accommodations
By John Quinn
Originally printed 9/19/2013 (Issue 2138 - Between The Lines News)
The paint has barely dried at The Snug Theatre in Marine City and they're already tackling a musical. Not just any musical, mind you, but "Hello, Dolly!" one of the most popular shows of the '60s, a golden age for Broadway. But "Dolly" is a big, big show, and cramming it into The Snug is the proverbial 10 pounds of potatoes in a five-pound sack.
Why is the Broadway season full of revivals? Because, according to Ken Davenport of http://www.Theproducersperspective.com, the production budget to launch a musical averages upward of $9.6 million - and that was calculated for the 2010-11 season. Granted, that season included the bloated, $75 million expense for "Spider-man: Turn Off the Dark" (which may never turn a profit), but producers are increasingly hesitant to risk big bucks on an uncertain project. The sensible methods of making money are smaller shows and revivals.
Small theaters try a combination of both - reviving favorites, but toning down the pomp and circumstance - with mixed success. The secret would seem to be picking a beloved show and playing to the company's strengths.
So, does "Hello, Dolly!" pass the beloved test? It didn't at first. Try-outs in Detroit and D.C. evoked tepid audience response, so words 'n' music man Jerry Herman and librettist Michael Stewart retooled their project. Debuting in 1964, "Dolly" won the Tony Award for Best Musical and nine other Tonys.
The book, based on Thornton Wilder's 1955 comedy, "The Matchmaker," is a light but convoluted tale about romance near the turn of the 20th century. The Dolly in question is the widowed Dolly Levi, nee Gallagher (Kathy Vertin), who ekes out a living multi-tasking a number of professions, including professional matchmaker. Due to the social norms of the period, a gentleman could not approach a lady without a formal introduction. Dolly's doing double duty: hooking up the young artist Ambrose Kemper (Joey Carrier) with the winsome, but weepy and whiny Ermengarde (Tyler Nevison) while arranging a meeting between gruff Yonkers merchant Horace Vandergelder (Randy Skotarczyk) and Widow Irene Malloy (Brittany Everitt Smith). With the boss leaving for NYC, his shop boys, Cornelius Hackl (Aaron Dennis Smith) and Barnaby Tucker (Caleb Kreidler), make a rash decision to tour Gotham. As luck would have it, they are almost spotted by Horace and take shelter in, of all places, Irene's hat shop. For Cornelius and Irene, it's love at first sight. Never fear that this leaves Horace in the lurch; Dolly has decided that she'll snare the "half millionaire" for herself.
When all is sorted out, can we expect, as Shakespeare wrote it, "Jack shall have Jill/Nought shall go ill?" This is a classic American musical, folks; you better believe it!
How does "Hello, Dolly!" fare with The Snug's streamlining? On the whole, quite well. Aaron Dennis Smith, the director, has made some thoughtful choices. His most successful was to stage this complex script on a single, simple set. The designer is unnamed, but Tom Vertin has built an attractive, solid construction that changes mood under Chris Martus's playful lighting.
Brittany Everitt Smith's choreography is straight-forward, allowing dancers of varying experience to look like seasoned hoofers. Musical director Paul Decker did a lot of adapting - the six musicians are out in the lobby. We may presume there are clear sightlines with the stage, since there is no disconnect between singers and orchestra. The arrangement is serviceable and well executed - but, with strings reduced to bass and guitar, wind instruments dominate.
But about that five-pound sack mentioned above. "Hello,Dolly!" really stretches the venue. The chorus has been pared down to seven, which leaves only four actors available to staff the Harmonia Gardens Restaurant, the convergence point of the Act II hijinks. The title song - one of the best known in musical theater -- was written to be a show-stopping spectacle. The seemingly endless iterations of the chorus point in that direction. While quality as performed here is not diminished, the number recedes into the rest of the score.
There are a lot of strengths evident in the cast, particularly vocal. There are numbers that force singers into "breathtaking" dives into their lower register, but the results are admirable. Vertin is a crisp, no-nonsense Dolly, and ably handles the heavy lifting of the title role. She plays the character slightly larger than life, which balances nicely with this smaller production.
Skotarczyk's Vandergelder is more restrained; he has the gruffness, but not the bluster.
One of the favorite performances of the night could also be called the most irritating. Nevison endows Ermengarde with a whine that could shatter bullet-proof glass. It became a running gag.
Leave subtlety at the door with your worries. Instead, celebrate a big, bold American musical!
The Snug Theatre, 160 W. Water St., Marine City. 7 p.m. Thursday-Saturday through Sept. 21, plus 3 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 8 & 15. 2 hours, 20 minutes $20. 810-278-1749. http://www.thesnugtheatre.com
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