Classical musical theater ( and light opera/operetta) is always a treat, in particular when the troupe presenting it is one that pays attention to details and finds the right people to bring the roles to life. Light Opera Works is such an organization, bringing classics to their stage in Evanston that allow us to enjoy the old fashioned musical the way it was meant to be done. “Hello Dolly!”, a wonderful musical based on Thornton Wilder’s “The Matchmaker”, with a book by Michael Stewart and music and lyrics by Jerry Herman is being staged at Cahn Auditorium on the campus of Northwestern University in Evanston as the “big” production to end their 2010 season. Under the direction and choreography of Rudy Hogenmiller, this is truly an opportunity for an audience member to see a classic done to perfection. The large dance numbers are superb and Hogenmiller never allows the limitations of the smaller stage to handicap his creative flow or the talents of his cast.
Of course ,to truly get to the heart of “Dolly”, a story about a matchmaker in Yonkers during the 1890’s, who is hired to find a mate for the almost wealthy Horace Vandergelder ( a marvelous portrayal by Peter Verdico) and takes us on a journey to make that match herself, a production needs a strong Dolly. Many recall the original being played by Carol Channing and the movie version featuring Barbra Streisand, so the bar has been raised very high- Light Opera Works has found Mary Robin Roth to take on this task and her portrayal of this famous character exceeded my expectations two-fold; she is terrific! Let’s make that with a capital T= TERRIFIC!!! ( in fact every letter in caps as she truly makes this role her own and from her very first appearance, each and every audience member loved her). Just watching her work is worth the price of the ticket, and Verdigo’s Horace is as solid as they come.
Dolly and Horace cannot do it alone, of course, and so I am happy to say that the secondary players and the ensemble all reach to great heights in making this a fun, and entertaining experience for young and old alike. Horace has two workers in his feed shop, Cornelius Hackl ( Robert Brady) and Barnaby Tucker ( delightfully played by Patrick Tierney) who take on a visit to New York as an adventure where they vow, they will never leave until they kiss a girl- they do meet the girls and grow up as well. The two women, Irene Molloy ( deftly handled by Jessye Wright, who has a powerful voice) and her assistant Minnie Fay ( the adorable Danielle Plisz) and by the time all the adventures are over, there is a happy ending for each of our characters. In the old musicals, there were always happy endings.
Musical theater, in particular, the old classics rely on the ensemble to make all the loose unds fit and this being a show that might be called a choreographer’s dream, they should be applauded and lauded for their work. The male ensemble members work just a bit harder with thier big dance numbers of “Hello Dolly” and “The waiter’s Galop” as well as company numbers; Bobby Johnson,Mark Kosten,Jonathan Kwock, Ben Mason, Mark LeBeau,Jr., Daniel Spagnuolo,Keith Richards,Bryan Conner,Peter Durkin, Marshall Back and Brendan J. Foley- Great job guys! Of course, the women ensemble members all did a wonderful job, but this is a male ensemble show with many more numbers geared for the male chorus, so let’s give them the credit for the wonderful work they did.
Great music, a fun story, marvelous acting, singing and dancing- isn’t this what you hope for when attending the musical theater? Light Opera Works, in their main stage productions, just to make sure that the music sounds as it was written to be played uses a full orchestra under the direction of Roger L. Bingaman and Tom Burch has added a simple but dazzling set to add to the brilliant costumes by Emily Nelson and her staff and the lights ( Charles Jolls) and sound ( Miles Polaski). The only problem with a production such as this is that the budget only allows for a limited run, so if you want to capture the rapture of this experience, you only have until January 2nd-
Performances are as follows:
Monday, 12/27 at 2 p.m., Tuesday, 12/28 at 7 p.m.,Wednesday 12/29 at 2 p.m.,Thursday, 12/30 at 8 p.m.,Friday-HAPPY NEW YEAR at 8 p.m.,Saturday, 1/1 at 8 p.m. and Sunday,1/2 at 2 p.m.
Tickets range from $32-$92 ( New Year’s Eve, slightly higher) and 21 and younger can get 50% off on 12/27,28 and 29.
Cahn Auditorium i slocated at 600 Emerson Street ( at Sheridan Rd) in Evanston. There is a public lot, one and a half blocks south of Emerson on Chicago Avenue.
To order your tckets ( while they last) call 847-869-6300 or visit www.lightoperaworks.com