Jenifer Lewis to Star in HELLO DOLLY! at Seattle's 5th Aven
The 5th Avenue presents the classic American Musical Hello Dolly!, with music and lyrics by Jerry Herman and book by Michael Stewart, from the play The Matchmaker by Thornton Wilder. Set in New York in the 1890s, the show tells the story of the irrepressible Dolly Levi, matchmaker and social phenomenon, who is employed by grumpy small-town merchant Horace Vandergelder to find him a wife. But instead of helping Horace, the formidable widow assists his two hapless clerks Barnaby and Cornelius to find love and adventure in New York, while setting her sights on Vandergelder herself! Brimming with exuberant songs like "Put On Your Sunday Clothes," "Before the Parade Passes By," "It Only Takes a Moment," and of course the title song, Hello Dolly! celebrates the exuberant philosophies of seizing the moment and spreading one's wealth around.
This dynamic new production is directed by the 5th's artistic director David Armstrong, and features film and stage star Jenifer Lewis as Dolly, as well as local comedian and radio personality Pat Cashman as Horace.
Lewis, a star of film (Sister Act I and II, What's Love Got to Do With It, Jackie's Back!), TV (Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, In Living Color, Friends), and stage (most recently as Motormouth Maybelle in Broadway's Hairspray and as Yvette in George Wolfe's star-studded Mother Courage, helmed by Meryl Streep), describes the role of Dolly as a "lifelong ambition," one to which she'll be bringing her own original interpretation. Her professional relationship with director David Armstrong goes back to New York in the ‘80s, when he directed her in a series of influential cabarets. These shows, including Jenifer Lewis on the Couch and Jenifer Lewis in the Cosmos, helped her create her comically outrageous Diva persona, and culminated in her hit show at the Public Theatre, The Diva is Dismissed. Lewis says that while her "diva experience" was useful for approaching the role of Dolly, it lacks one crucial attribute: warmth. "Dolly's a star who has been humbled," she explains. "That's what makes her so appealing, and so wise. She's wise, warm, and wonderful. You want Dolly on your team."
Playing opposite Lewis is Pat Cashman as grumpy "half-a-millionaire" Horace Vandergelder. An Emmy-award winning local comedian (Almost Live, Bill Nye the Science Guy), radio personality (on KING, KOMO, and KRKO among others) and humorist, Cashman's last appearance in a musical was as Pappy Yokum in a high school production of Lil' Abner. A pompous college drama teacher inspired his approach to the role of Horace. "To my mind, that's Horace Vandergelder: a self-impressed, arrogant, embittered, somewhat unpleasant horse's patootie. And, like my old college director, there's probably a decent fellow underneath, but it takes an extraordinary woman like Dolly Levi to bring him forward."
Hello, Dolly was an unprecedented hit on Broadway, winning ten 1964 Tony Awards® including Best Musical, and running for 2,844 performances with not one but two road companies running simultaneously. (Critic Walter Kerr wrote "eventually people are going to stop going back to see Hello Dolly! They'll just settle down and live there.") During its run it featured some of the greatest actresses of the American stage in the leading role, including Betty Grable, Ginger Rogers, Martha Raye, Dorothy Lamour, Pearl Bailey (the first African-American Dolly), and Ethel Merman, the woman who was first offered the role by the producers but turned it down. It was filmed in 1969 with a too-young Barbara Streisand as Dolly (though the movie did go on to win three Oscars). Last year's Oscar-nominated animated film Wall-E featured two songs from the show, "Put on Your Sunday Clothes" and "It Only Takes a Moment," which are at the heart of the movie's unlikely romance between two robots.