Review: HELLO DOLLY! at Candlelight Music Theatre

The production runs through February 25

By: Jan. 29, 2024
Review: HELLO DOLLY! at Candlelight Music Theatre
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Hello Dolly! Opened on Broadway in 1964 with the irrepressible, wide-eyed, charismatic Carol Channing in the title role, winning 10 Tony’s including Best Musical and Best Actress for Channing. The show was her signature and, to understate, she held it close. An understudy once remarked that she was looking forward to subbing in for her. “Don’t hold your breath, sister”. Channing played the part over 5000 times.

It’s a big production with a large cast and pricy Victorian era costumes. Candlelight should be heartily praised for undertaking this worthwhile extravaganza. Under Director/Choreographer Jody Anderson’s attention-to-detail eagle eye is mounted a rollicking and engaging production that includes such iconic Broadway tunes including “Put On Your Sunday Clothes”, “Elegance”, “It Only Takes a Moment” and of course the title number. The dancing in the production numbers is a star of the show (as evidenced by the photograph of resident photographer Tisa Della-Volpe, who is fabled for clicking the shutter at the decisive moment).

The title role is one of the most cherished and preeminent in musical theatre. Rebecca Schall takes this meddlesome, exasperating matchmaker character and makes it her own. Never has there been such a charming manipulator (excluding my first ex-wife).

Candlelight veteran Jared Calhoun (Cornelius) has exhibited strong stage presence with each character he has played. He lights up the stage with every entrance. He and his retail colleague at Vandergelder’s Hay and Feed Store Shawn Weaver (Barnaby) create an effervescent and electric duo. The singing/dancing quartet of that twosome and Neena Boyle Irene (Irene) and Tina Gabriella (Minnie) are showstoppers in “Elegance”. Boyle and Calhoun have palpable chemistry in the lovely rendition of “It Only Takes A Moment”. They strike an emotional chord in our hearts. Gabriella’s Minnie is wondrously comic; a stellar comedienne and an absolute hoot. Her expressions are priceless and the audience loves her ADHD enthusiasm.

Precise choreography is a hallmark of DOLLY!. Anderson brings her career as dancer and teacher to full fruition, especially in the major production number “The Waiters’ Gallop”. Introduced by head waiter Rudolph (the ageless Tim Moudy), this is the centerpiece of the show. It was joyous and generated a tsunami of applause from the opening night audience.

Costumer Timothy Lamont Cannon continues to astound with one would assume a limited budget. The period outfits, allied with the umbrellas in “Sunday Clothes” was exquisitely staged. He employed every vibrant color known to man.

Supporting character Julia Miller (Ermengarde) is Anderson’s daughter. One hopes she does not whine and scream at home as does her character at every improbable opportunity. (Ha). Carrie Naylor (Ernestina Money) makes every attempt to seduce Horace Vandergelder (Johnny Fernandez) into marriage and is supremely unsuccessful. In the program notes, Carrie dedicates this show to her Mom and Dad, Aisle Say’s dear friends, Ted and Dianne Meyerman. The two were in the very first Candlelight show, FORUM, in 1969. With Carrie, the family tradition continues.

It is obvious the dancers trained rigorously. Shout outs to the frenetic feet of Jessica Ball, Ryan Christopher, Peter Kirby, Myles Knight, Elizabeth Mercier, Katie McQuail, Lanie Morris, John Murphy, Amanda Shaffern, Shaun Yates and Tess Sinatra.

Clayton Stacey (Wigs, Hair and Makeup) and Anthony Connell (Properties and Set Dressing) did their normal excellent jobs.

Through February 25  Candlelight Theater Delaware – Dining and Entertainment Beyond Your Expectations (  302.475.2313

Next Up: THE MYSTERY OF EDWIN DROOD – March 16. (First time ever staged at Candlelight)