BWW Reviews: Get Up Close and Personal with DOLLY at Spotlighters Theatre

There's nothing more personal than theater in the round, especially when it's on such an intimate scale as that at Spotlighters Theatre where there's a maximum of three rows of seating on each side. And it seems a fitting way to get to know Dolly Gallagher Levi, star of Hello, Dolly!, since her greatest joy is getting to know you-in the hopes of making a little money off of what she's figured out.

Given the large size of the cast (at least 15 members) and the Lilliputian scale of the stage, the ensemble does an excellent job moving about and using the space to the fullest, miraculously avoiding collisions or awkward run-ins, especially during full-cast dance numbers. Still, given the size of the production (and Hello, Dolly! is a big one: big cast, big hair, big clothes, big hats, big personalities), the stage often feels a bit cramped.

As we get to know Dolly and her charismatic modus operandi, we, too, come under her spell-much to the credit of Maribeth Eckenrode, who channels the cheeky, brassy turn-of-the-century yenta with panache-following her adventures and misadventures in Yonkers, where we meet the object of her latest scheme, Horace VanderGelder (Bob Ahrens), and then in New York City.

Along the way, we encounter Cornelius Hackl (Bart Debicki) and Barnaby Tucker (Jeff Baker), VanderGelder's feed store clerks who want nothing more than to escape their humdrum employment and soak up some of the glitz and glitter of the Big City. Hackl and Tucker's comic relief is endearing as they bumble their way through an undercover getaway and a chance encounter with Irene Molloy (Eileen del Valle) and Minnie Fay (Holly Gibbs), which eventually leads to love.

The Debicki-Baker duo are enjoyable to watch; Debicki does a particularly good job with his solo, "It Only Takes a Moment," in the second act, and Baker's ability to portray Barnaby's ebullient enthusiasm for everything adds life and laughter to the production. Similarly, del Valle and Gibbs merit praise for their portrayals of Irene and Minnie as they launch themselves into an afternoon and evening on the town with the mysterious men from Yonkers who turn their lives upside down. Gibbs, especially, has a vivaciousness that fills the stage and a strong voice that carries some of the ensemble numbers.

At times, however, the grandness of Dolly overwhelms the little stage, and in that intimate space, the unevenness of the cast is all the more evident. Voices fade out in the higher registers of some of the numbers, especially with the volume of the recorded music, and occasionally, it's unclear whether the singing is truly on key. During some of the scenes, the dancing-squeezed onto the stage and constrained by the 360-degree nature of theater in the round-degenerates into clunky, robotic movements.

Still, certain moments shine: The choreography evoking the train ride from Yonkers to New York City is charming, and the Harmonia Garden dinner scenes, "Waiters' Gallop" and "Hello, Dolly," are enchantingly entertaining. And while audiences might find themselves wishing for a slightly less grating Ermengarde (Rachel Vehaaren), a slightly more romantic Ambrose Kemper (Justin Johnson) and slightly more convincing chemistry between Dolly and Horace, this Dolly is a delightful couple hours' distraction.

Hello, Dolly! runs Friday-Sunday through May 20 at Spotlighters Theatre, 817 St. Paul St. in Baltimore. Its next production, The Hot l Baltimore, opens June 1, 2012. For more information, visit

Photos courtesy of Spotlighters Theatre.


Maryland Theatre Collective Sets Casts for AGNES OF GOD, RAGTIME IN CONCERT, And THE COLLE Photo

The Maryland Theatre Collective has announced casting and production teams for their next three events of the 2023/2024 season!

Salome Smith Joins Cast of THE WORLD GOES ROUND at Everyman Theatre Photo
Salome Smith Joins Cast of THE WORLD GOES 'ROUND at Everyman Theatre

The World Goes ‘Round, which celebrates the extraordinary musical legacy of John Kander and Fred Ebb, the songwriting duo behind multiple Tony-award winning shows such as Cabaret, Chicago, and Kiss of the Spiderwoman, adds additional vocal power to its cast when Salome B. Smith joins the Everyman production onstage June 6 – July 2.

Preview Maryland Ensemble Theatres 2023-24 Season in June Photo
Preview Maryland Ensemble Theatre's 2023-24 Season in June

Catch a sneak peak of Maryland Ensemble Theatre’s upcoming 2023-2024 season at MET’s Annual Season Preview on June 27th at Steinhardt Brewing along beautiful Carroll Creek.

Adventure Theatre MTC to Present THE FISHERMAN AND HIS WIFE Beginning in June Photo
Adventure Theatre MTC to Present THE FISHERMAN AND HIS WIFE Beginning in June

Adventure Theatre MTC (ATMTC) will spins a delightful yarn of wishing, hope, and fulfillment for local family audiences with a unique three-actor version of The Fisherman and His Wife, directed by Tyler Herman.

From This Author - Giordana Segneri


#repshow# in[i]# The Rocky Horror Show - Pride Edition!
Iron Crow Theatre (6/02-6/17)Tracker CAST
#repshow# in[i]# Vicotrian Lyric Company presents "The Sorcerer"
F. Scott Fitzgerald Theatre (8/31-9/02)
#repshow# in[i]# Bach in Baltimore presents Handel Dettingen Te Deum & Mozart “Jupiter” Symphony
First Evangelical Lutheran Church (6/04-6/04)
#repshow# in[i]# First Date
Annapolis Summer Garden Theatre (6/29-7/15)
#repshow# in[i]# August Cabaret
Classic Theatre of Maryland (8/07-8/07)
#repshow# in[i]# A Few Good Men
The Cumberland Theatre (9/07-9/17)
#repshow# in[i]# The Tempest
Classic Theatre of Maryland (7/06-7/23)
#repshow# in[i]# The Dinner Detective Comedy Mystery Dinner Show
The Dinner Detective Baltimore (6/24-6/24)
#repshow# in[i]# The Holiday Channel Christmas Movie Wonderthon
The Cumberland Theatre (12/07-12/17)
#repshow# in[i]# Fela!
Olney Theatre Center (7/07-8/13)

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