Review: HELLO, DOLLY! at Village Theatre

Delightful production of a Classic with a powerhouse lead!

By: May. 27, 2023
Review: HELLO, DOLLY! at Village Theatre
Review: HELLO, DOLLY! at Village Theatre
Bobbi Kotula and the cast of Hello, Dolly!
at Village Theatre.
Photo credit: Angela Sterling

In the musical theater world, there are classics and then there are Classics (with the big “C”).  Jerry Herman’s “Hello, Dolly!” is certainly a big “C” Classic and I’m here to fight anyone who says different.  It’s a delicious throwback to the Golden Age of musicals and certainly a star vehicle for the right star.  And speaking of the right star, the current production of “Dolly”, currently playing at Village Theatre, shows just how good this Classic can be with the incredible Bobbi Kotula in the title role who proves that she’s not a star, but a Star!  But more on her later.

First let’s deal with the show.  If you haven’t seen it or aren’t familiar, then I’m sad for you and you need to rectify that immediately.  I will admit to a very special place in my heart for “Dolly” as it was one of the first shows I saw live on stage as a kid, and with Carol Channing in the lead no less.  And it went a long way to making me the theater geek I am today. 

Based on Thornton Wilder’s play, “The Matchmaker”, and with music and lyrics by Herman and a book by Michael Stewart, we naturally focus on the eponymous Dolly Levi (Kotula).  A larger-than-life character who makes a living meddling in other’s lives.  She can do anything, teach you how to dance, plan social engagements, and of course, find you love.  But she’s decided it’s time to move on and find herself another husband after losing her late husband, Ephraim.  But first she’s been tasked with fixing the engagements around her.  Horace Vandergelder (Allen Fitzpatrick) is determined to find another wife, so he hires Dolly.  But while Dolly says she’s introducing him to Irene Malloy (Jessica Skerritt) and Ernestina Money (Karen Skrinde), she has ulterior motives not the least of which is to get Horace to accept his niece Ermengarde’s (Tatum Ludlam) beau, Ambrose (Nehemiah Hooks).  Then there’s Mr. Vandergelder’s clerks Cornelius and Barnaby (Markcus Blair and Rhys Daly) who are determined to get a night out.  And when they all end up at the same restaurant, The Harmonia Gardens in New York, well … the chaos ensues. 

Review: HELLO, DOLLY! at Village Theatre
John David Scott and the cast of Hello, Dolly!
at Village Theatre.
Photo credit: Angela Sterling

With Classic tunes such as “Ribbons Down My Back”, “Before the Parade Passes By” and of course the titular “Hello, Dolly!” you can see the show is a hit with hit after hit in the score.  Plus, the story is simply a love letter to love and hilarious to boot.  Put that all together and you have an evening of joy.  And it seems that Village Theatre and especially director Timothy McCuen Piggee understand that as their love and respect for the show shines through.  No one tries to get highbrow or modernize it, they just let it be the wonderful show it is and Piggee’s staging along with Kathryn Van Meter’s fantastic choreography only serve to show off what the show has to offer.  Hitting each inherent moment (and it does only take a moment) they show off how talented they are.  I must specifically call out Van Meter’s stunning “Waiters’ Gallop” that was a thing of comedic beauty to behold and worth the price of admission alone.  Especially with this amazing ensemble of waiters as lead by head waiter Rudolph hysterically played by John David Scott who’s only made funnier (if that’s possible) by the running gag of dealing with a disaster of a waiter as played by Gabriel Corey.

Review: HELLO, DOLLY! at Village Theatre
Allen Fitzpatrick and Karen Skrinde in 
Hello, Dolly! at Village Theatre.
Photo credit: Angela Sterling

If it sounds like I’m spending too much time on the ensemble and supporting cast, it’s because they deserve it.  Fitzpatrick is a delight and turns in a wonderful arc without starting Horace off as too unlikeable and plays the beleaguered straight man to a T.  And she may have only had one scene but Skrinde as the possible paramour Ernestina could not be funnier.  I only wish we could have seen her dance that Hoochie Coochie.  Ludlam nails the perpetually sobbing Ermengarde and is adorable in tow with the eager Hooks as Ambrose.  Skerritt as Irene is a wonder.  Not the funniest role in the show but getting one of the best songs which she sells perfectly showing off the character’s longing.  And her assistant Minnie Fay as played by Sarah “SG” Garcia is too, too cute and funny.  Speaking of cute and funny, Blair and Daly as the naïve clerks are the best I’ve seen and have incredible chemistry together making them so much fun to watch.  And Blair’s velvet smooth “It Only Takes a Moment” is truly swoon-worthy.

Review: HELLO, DOLLY! at Village Theatre
Sarah "SG" Garcia, Rhys Daly, Jessica Skerritt,
and Markcus Blair in Hello, Dolly! at Village Theatre.
Photo credit: Angela Sterling

But this show rests on the shoulders of Dolly and so it all comes down to Kotula, and those shoulders are up to the challenge.  This is one of those parts that feels written for her, just waiting for the right time, and for her to be the right age.  If you’ve seen her in anything you know of her brilliant comedic chops and powerhouse voice which is why she is a local favorite.  But to see her come alive in this role gave me chills and even brought a tear to my eye.  You can see how she simply fits in the part and knows how to own it.  From the moment she steps on stage with her confident and relaxed air, even pausing to mess with the audience a bit, she shows how much of a consummate performer she is and why no one else could have taken this on.  She owns every moment she’s on that stage and even some when she’s not, and when she makes that grand entrance in that dress, you know to just hang on for the ride.

This is simply one of those shows where every piece came together perfectly and seemingly effortlessly to create gold, or as I call it “Theatrical Alchemy”.  From Piggee and Van Martin’s staging and direction to Bruce Monroe’s astounding music direction to the gorgeous jewel toned costumes from Esther Garcia to this sublime cast lead by Kotula, this is a production for the ages.  And so, with my three-letter rating system, I give Village Theatre’s production of “Hello, Dolly!” a supremely happy inner theater geek of a WOW!  Do yourself a favor, run, don’t walk, to get tickets to this fabulous production.

“Hello, Dolly!” performs at Village Theatre in their Issaquah location through July 2nd before moving to their Everett location running July 7th through July 30th.  For tickets or information visit them online at



Author Ken Ludwig has certainly had a prolific career filled with some wonderful gems, “Crazy for You”, “Lend Me a Tenor”, and “Moon Over Buffalo” to name just a few. So, Village Theatre’s new production of his 2017 work, “Sherwood: The Adventures of Robin Hood” sounds like a rollicking good time. Unfortunately, this new retelling of a classic adventure meanders about awkwardly not knowing what it wants to be. And that’s just one of the two big problems of a production that just laid there hoping the audience would find something funny in it.

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From This Author - Jay Irwin

         Born and raised in Seattle, WA, Jay has been a theater geek for years.  He attends as many shows as he can around the country and loves taking in new exciting wo... Jay Irwin">(read more about this author)


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