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Phoenix Festival Theater Hello, Dolly!

By • Jun 12th, 2012 • Category: Reviews
Hello, Dolly!
Phoenix Festival Theater
Chesapeake Theater-Harford Community College, Bel Air, MD
Through June 17th
2:30 with intermission
$20/$10 Youth or Seniors at 3pm show
Reviewed June 8th, 2012

Hello, Dolly! is classic musical theater with stunning period costumes, spectacular company dance numbers, lots of laughter, and everyone falling in love and getting their “happily ever after.” Phoenix Festival Theater does not disappoint in bringing this fun and family-friendly masterpiece to life. Several standout performances and a ton of amazing choreography fill the room with joy.

Based on Thorton Wilder’s The Matchmaker, Hello, Dolly! tells the story of Mrs. Dolly Gallagher Levi (Tiffany Walker Porta), who has made a successful career and reputation out of her meddling. A widow, she is ready to move on with her life and remarry. She has the groom all picked out – he just doesn’t know it yet. Dolly knows how to get what she wants and how to get what is best for everyone else, even when they don’t see it, and she uses a little mischief and a lot of charm to get results. In this larger-than-life role, Porta is unfortunately a little inconsistent. There are times when she gets the comedic timing and/or delivery right on and it is magic, but there are other times where she misses the boat a little by rushing over her words too fast or emphasizing the wrong part of a phrase. She hovers on the cusp of a great Dolly, but she never quite gets there. It is a similar story with her vocals. There are parts of her range, and, therefore, parts of every song, where she has a great tone and maintains the pitch. However, there are also parts of each song where she ends up either going flat or screeching in tone. Porta is not bad, but she lacks the kind of amazing, show-stealing awesomeness that one would expect of such a legendary character.

As her unknowing groom-to-be, Horace Vandergelder, Bill Fritz does an excellent job of making cantankerous still likeable. It would have been nice to see a little bit of a shift to something slightly more heartfelt in the last scene, but, overall, he was charming enough to make it clear why Dolly selected this seemingly disagreeable fellow as her next husband.

It was the supporting roles, though, that really made the show. While Vandergelder is busy with Dolly’s antics, his two clerks decide to have an adventure of their own in New York City. If the program didn’t let the cat out of the bag, it would be hard to believe that Thomas Gardner is a high school student. As 33-year old chief clerk Cornelius Hackl, he absolutely shines. He has a powerful presence, excellent comedic delivery, and gorgeous vocals. He also wears his heart of his sleeve and makes everything seems real and effortless. Especially delightful are his interactions with fellow clerk Barnaby (Shane Lowry). Every time that those two gentlemen sing harmony, it is magic. Lowry also gives a great performance. He plays what is almost caricature, but, somehow, he makes that real and believable. Lowry also has a real energy and presence that shines from his face in all the dance and company numbers.

The clerks do indeed find the adventure that they were searching for in the form of Irene Molloy (Jillian Victoria) and Minnie Fay (Lindsey McCumber). Victoria exudes, as the song says, “Elegance,” which is definitely one of the strongest numbers in the show performed by this powerhouse foursome. Victoria just has a subtle, yet commanding ethos on the stage. She also has a breath-taking voice that glides easily between various parts of her range. She manages to make “Ribbons Down My Back,” which can often be a rather boring and stifling song, into something that is not only vocally beautiful, it is powerful and speaks volumes of her character’s past and future longings. Victoria is the quintessential leading lady and a true professional. McCumber, like Lowry, walks that fine line between caricature and character and manages to come out on top. Her comedic delivery is large-scale yet natural. She is simply delightful.

The ensemble, full of both adults and children, in this production is also very strong. There is a lot of energy and heart on display, and they do a great job creating little characters and moments throughout. Two specific standouts are Carrianne Cicero (Ermengarde) and Catherine Stalcup Herlinger (Ernestina). Both ladies do a fabulous job of taking tiny moments and making them shine.

The production is distinctly well-directed and well-staged by Kim Brueggemann. The entire company moves seamlessly, and the staging is realistic even when the very large cast is all on stage. The choreography by Eyvo Johnson is just phenomenal. Johnson seems to know how to keep choreography simple enough that a large ensemble of varying skill levels can all be sharp and in-step with each other, while still making the end result visual interesting and intricate. Between the pair, they create many memorable numbers, especially “Call on Dolly” and “Before the Parade Passes By.”

The icing on the cake for this production is the beautiful, colorful, and period appropriate costumes and the beautiful, layered set pieces. The careful attention to detail in these technical aspects adds a layer of polish on the entire production.

While it is a mildly disappointing that Dolly’s performance does not make itself the centerpiece of the production, as it ideally would be, there is enough wonderful to make the show more than worth watching. The incredible foursome, the fantastic choreography and staging, and the beautiful production aspects, make it easy to think that these things are actually the star of the show. Everyone should find the time to take in this enjoyable production for all ages.

Photo Gallery

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Photos provided by Phoenix Festival Theater

Cast

  • Mrs. Dolly Gallagher Levi: Tiffany Walker Porta
  • Ernestina: Catherine Stalcup Herlinger
  • Ambrose Kemper: Tyler Fritz
  • Horace Vandergelder: Bill Fritz
  • Ermengarde: Carrianne Cicero
  • Cornelius Hackl: Thomas Gardner
  • Barnaby Tucker: Shane Lowry
  • Minnie Fay: Lindsey McCumber
  • Irene Molloy: Jillian Victoria
  • Mrs. Rose: Susan Liberati
  • Rudolph Reisenweber: Allan Herlinger
  • Stanley: Charlie Holt
  • First Cook: Campbell Kistner
  • Second Cook: Reuben Ward
  • Judge: Steve Flickinger
  • Policeman: Codey Odachowski
  • Company: Stephanie Atha, Emily Atha, Charis Bartenslager, Bob Belman, Austin Brannan, Finn Bucci, Kyleigh Daiker, Nancy Denton, Laura Ebsworth, Sarah Ebsworth, Veronica Endrik, Steve Flickinger, Delany Flickinger, Judy Fritz, Brady Fritz, Wayne Godfrey, Matthew Hauf, Isabelle Herlinger, Natasha Herlinger, Charlie Holt, Karly Horn, Erin Huffer, Campbell Kistner, Gino Liberati, Michael Lupano, Kathleen O’Neill, Codey Odachowski, Leslie Perry, Amanda Reid, Mike Schafer, Mikey Shock, Susan Strawbridge, and Reuben Ward

Production Team

  • Company Manager/Producer: Larry Hensley
  • Director: Kim Brueggemann
  • Musical Director: Julie Parrish
  • Choreographer: Eyvo Johnson
  • Technical Director: Kerry Brandon
  • Stage Manager: Amy Jo Smith
  • Set Designer: Shawn DeVoe
  • Costume Consultants: Stella DiPeso, Susan Nicolaides, Gay Lynn Price
  • Props Manager: Jessica Brockmeyer
  • Lighting Designer: Ed Lake
  • Spotlight Operators: Trevor Winter, Kristen Hessenauer
  • Light Board Operator: Bevin Hensley
  • Sound Board Operator: Alex Paul
  • Scenic Artist: Melissa Shatto
  • Construction Crew: Bevin Hensley, Kristen Hessenauer, Kelleigh Pangratz, Alex Paul, Trevor Winter
  • Stage Hands: Kerry Brandon, Kelleigh Pangratz

Orchestra

  • Conductor, Piano: Julie Parrish
  • Reeds: Helen Schlaich
  • Reeds: Debbie Krocheski
  • Violin: Rachel Lane
  • Bass: Jeff Barrett
  • Trumpet: Pete Lander
  • Trombone: Ted Krocheski
  • Guitar: Christie Macdonald
  • Drums: Lisa Wood

Disclaimer: Phoenix Festival Theater provided two complimentary media tickets to ShowBizRadio for this review.

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has been involved in theatre in the state of Maryland and DC for most of her life. She has acted, directed, choreographed, stage managed, and held a million other odd jobs. She has a B.S. in English from Towson University, and is currently pursuing her Master's Degree to become a Reading Specialist. She is a Maryland State Certified English, Theatre, Elementary, and Mathematics Educator. After teaching English and Drama for many years, she now teaches 6th grade Language Arts at Magnolia Middle School in Harford County, Maryland. She wrote the curriculum currently used in Prince George’s County Public Schools for Drama I and Drama II. She now writes and directs plays and musicals for use in church.

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