BWW Interview: 6 Questions & A Plug with HELLO, DOLLY!'s Wally Dunn
Often the smaller roles and, we hear here, the crew members are not recognized but are integral to the whole production happening. In this edition of 6Qs & a Plug, actor Wally Dunn shares his thoughts on HELLO, DOLLY! and his career thus far. The show opens on the Orpheum stage tonight.
Everyone is familiar with HELLO, DOLLY! -- so can you share a story about being in the cast of this Broadway revival that stars Betty Buckley? What's something fans don't know about this show?
What fans of the show don't know is how diligent and hardworking our crew is every night. They make sure we look and sound our best, ensure our safety on and off stage, they work crazy hours packing up and loading out our huge show and unload it a few hours later in a new city, often without enough rest. We couldn't do the show without them.
Another thing the fans might not know is that as beautiful as the choreography is onstage it's just as wonderful backstage. Everything and everyone has a particular place to be at any given time during the show. I think it's as beautiful and fun as the on-stage choreography.
So true -- the crew deserves more credit! What is it like working with a Broadway legend like Ms. Buckley?
Working with Betty is a real treat. She provides a wonderful example to emulate. She's a consummate pro. The reason she makes it look so easy is because she's done and continues to do her homework on her role.
Your role is Rudolph, the head waiter at Harmonia Gardens, the scene of the famous "Waiter's Gallop" and title song, "Hello, Dolly!" What is it like being a part of those well-known scenes and what is your favorite part of them?
It's an honor to follow in the footsteps of wonderful character men who've played the role, such as David Hartman, Robert Hocknell, the great David Hurst, Jonathan Wynne and of course, my friend Kevin Ligon.
I love the clockwork precision in Waiter's Gallop. It's like being on a roller-coaster overnight.
Hello, Dolly! was my mom's favorite musical. Sadly, she passed before she got a chance to see me sing and dance in her favorite song. When I was a youngster my mom would bring me up to dance to Hello, Dolly! at weddings and parties. That tradition lasted into my days as an adult. Just being present on stage during the number reunites me with my mom eight times a week -- hands down, that's my favorite part!
You've been a part of several national tours, including WEST SIDE STORY, SPAMALOT and ALL SHOOK UP, so as you tour the country with Dolly now, are you seeing different parts of the country? How have audiences across the nation changed over time?
Yes, indeed I have. It's a wonderful privilege to be able to travel the country with enough time to explore and get to somewhat know a place. With some exceptions, I'm revisiting cities and towns I've played in the past, which is a wonderful experience.
I'm not sure audiences have changed all that much, really. Folks who love live theatre and its music are a unique group. To me, they have a need to see live performance of old and new works as they need air to breathe. What's changed I suppose is their ability to shout out their appreciation via social media. It's marvelous to read tweets, posts and pictures of their delight seeing a show. It's an aspect of an audience's experience that performers are only recently privy.
How did you get your start as an actor and what drew you to a career on stage?
Luck, happenstance, and showing up, I suppose. I decided to audition for MAN OF LA MANCHA my senior year in high school because it looked fun. It was a total one-off. I was going to be attending Providence College as a pre-Med student. Acting as a profession was the furthest thing I had in mind. I was cast as the understudy to Sancho Panza. A fellow named Darren won the role. He was a first-rate cross country runner and his attendance at rehearsals was a low priority. After he missed his fourth or fifth rehearsal, I was given the role! What kept me at it was that for all the hours, rehearsing, painting sets, hanging lights, building sets and learning lines none of seems like work. It also provided me with a community of like-minded people who felt the same. Lucky, indeed.
What are some bucket list roles or shows you hope to do still?
I'd love to take a stab at Sir Toby Belch again. It was the part I played in my first college production (and my third show ever). Now that I have seasoned-actor status, I think I'd be able to bring some maturity and life-experience to Sir Toby than I was able to as a callow 19 year old.
You're currently on tour through August 2019; do you have any plans for your next project after that? If not, what are you interested in doing once you return home?
Nothing in the books at the moment. I'll most likely return and hit the pavement after a vacation in Maine. I'll keep you all updated if anything comes through!
Fun side story:
During an early performance, in Cleveland, I think, just before the scrim went up at the start of the Waiter's Gallop, I realized... I forgot my whistle! Instant PANIC doesn't do the feeling justice. In those split seconds, I thought, "I'll just use my fingers to whistle - It's pretty loud; I use it to hail taxis in NY -- then I remembered I had gloves on! By then it had all gone pear shaped. Those audience members are a lucky few. They saw a one-time only performance, yet to be repeated. See, I've haven't forgotten my whistle since! Whew.
More info: Tickets and details about this production, playing through April 28, 2019: https://hennepintheatretrust.org/events/hello-dolly-broadway-tickets-orpheum-theatre-minneapolis-mn-2019/