BBW Interview: Daniel Beeman of HELLO, DOLLY! Coming to the Hobby Center
In the midst of holiday madness, as he prepared to assume the role of Cornelius Hackl in Hello, Dolly!, actor Daniel Beeman answered our questions about the touring production. Just a few days later, the show's composer/lyricist Jerry Herman passed away at the age of 88.
Herman's contributions to musical theatre are mammoth, and his accolades too lengthy to list. But perhaps his greatest legacy was his uncanny ability to create worlds filled with belly-laughs and idealistic joy, resonating with generations for over half of a century, and counting. Herman believed in a happy ending, and his optimistic outlook on life is evident in every scene and in every song he ever composed.
Starting January 7, Houston will be the first city to watch Herman's first major theatrical success, Hello, Dolly!, be performed since his death. When Beeman sings, "It only takes a moment / To be loved a whole life long," take a moment to remember that the world is filled with wonderful things, most poignantly, the work you'll be watching. And as Beeman said in our interview, "It's just the best way to spend a few hours." Do not miss this masterpiece.
You got the call... or an email or a text... "Daniel, we want you as Cornelius in Hello, Dolly!" What goes through your head in that moment? How do you prepare for this role?
I had been understudying the role on tour since we started in August of 2018 so it came as a happy surprise when they called and bumped me up from an understudy to taking over the role for the second leg of the tour. It has been really humbling and exciting to play such a joyful and fun role in this gorgeous show.
Cornelius is in a rut. Despite being recently promoted to head clerk at the store, he knows that "there's a world outside of Yonkers" and is desperately seeking adventure. You were raised in Nebraska, have worked a lot in Kansas City, and are now touring the country as a lead character in Hello, Dolly! Can you relate to Cornelius' desire to "find adventure in the evening air?"
I would definitely agree that my own experiences mirror Cornelius' in that I did want to be somewhere exciting and fast-paced once I was finished high school. That came in the form of cutting my teeth in college when I threw myself headfirst into the theatre community in Kansas City, which is where I learned a lot of what I know and made of some my best friends. Then, I shipped off to New York once I graduated college and I just love it.
What has surprised you most about being on tour?
It's been a thrill traveling with this show and seeing new places. The cool thing about our show is that it's so recognizable and such a deeply ingrained tradition of American art. Everyone has either seen the movie or knows the original cast recording or was in their high school's production - it's a timeless, beloved piece of theatre and a joy to bring it across the country.
Do you have any quirky pre- or post-performance rituals?
My pre-show routine is pretty standard-drink a ton of water, steam my voice, and do vocal warm-ups. Doing a comedy like this requires a lot of mental and physical energy so I do try to conserve and lay low before the show. So, my pre- and post-show is pretty low-key!
HELLO, DOLLY! is filled with iconic scenes and unforgettable moments. What is your favorite scene to watch, and your favorite scene in which to perform?
When I was in the ensemble and understudying, the scene I would always watch from the wings was "Dancing." I was not in the dancing ensemble, so it gave me a chance to watch it every night. The culmination of music, lyrics, and choreography still make me a little weepy sometimes because it's such a beautiful, juicy, superbly executed piece of musical theatre. It's just perfect and the dancers are a joy to watch. And now that I'm playing Cornelius full-time, I get to be in it and it's a blast. It'll always be my favorite number.
This stat never ceases to amaze: the original production of Hello, Dolly!, starring Carol Channing, was performed 2,844 times at the St. James Theatre in New York. Wow! The show has subsequently been revived on Broadway four times, and has been mounted internationally in countries including Argentina, Australia, and Israel, along with tours of America multiple times over. What is it about this particular musical that keeps audiences coming back? What makes this show so darn special?
From my experience in talking to folks at the stage door, it harkens back to their memories of their own experiences with the piece. One story that sticks with me is when I had a man tell me at the stage door, [who had] tears still in his eyes, "I cried through most of it because it was my late father's favorite record that he played in our house growing up." Hearing stories like that just remind me of how important this show is to people. So for me, that's what keeps people coming back to this show-the nostalgia and simply the material itself.
As audiences leave the Hobby Center after seeing Hello, Dolly!, how do you hope they feel? What would you want them to tell their friends and family about this particular production?
Laughter. This production radiates jubilance, through and through. The Tony Award-winning costumes, the sets, our fearless leading actors, Carolee Carmello and John Bolton, our entire cast of incredible actors and dancers, our crew, and timeless music all make for an exuberant, splashy evening. It's just the best way to spend a few hours. I want people to leave happier than when they arrived and that's exactly what they'll do when they come and see us!