Dolly Gallagher Levi is a meddler and makes a living from her “meddling”, dabbling in matchmaking, dancing, plus other numerous sidelines, and the entire New York City is happy she is in town!
The audiences in Cupar Corn Exchange were also delighted to say hello to her this week when she made her appearance in Cupar Musical Society’s production of “Hello, Dolly!”
This show, set in 20th Century Yonkers, New York, is virtually a one-woman show and requires a lady with a considerable amount of stage talent. Step forward Jude Vandecasteele! Here was a larger-than-life Dolly Levi and, from the moment she appeared at the show’s opening, on a rather bare stage, she stamped her authority on this role.
It was a well controlled performance as Jude wheedled, cajoled, waved her little finger as all before her fell for her charm and obeyed her every little whim. She sang her big musical numbers with great gusto and her opening song, I Put My Hand In, left the audience in no doubt what she had in her mind – she, herself, wanted to marry the local, well known half-a-millionaire Horace Vandergelder!
Now we get to the show’s love tangles – prominent Horace Vandergelder owns the local Hay and Feed store, and is looking for a wife. He employs two young clerks – Cornelius Hackl and Barnaby Tucker. They’ve never been to New York City and they want to see the sights and each kiss a girl! Horace’s niece, Ermengarde, wants to marry local artist, Ambrose Kemper, and . . . into this mix comes Dolly to sort it all out!
Experienced Neil Jarrett brought the grumpy, but loveable bewhiskered Horace Vandergelder to life with considerate ease and managed to look sufficiently bewildered when all around him was going wrong. His outlook on life was expressed perfectly as he sang It Takes A Woman, telling all his male friends that he wants a lady to look after him and do household chores! But he hadn’t reckoned on Dolly!
From past viewings, when Andrew Doig appears in a stage role, one can expect a high quality performance from him! Again we got it with his interpretation as Cornelius Hackl, Vandergelder’s chief clerk. He brought out the character’s naivety and gullibility with some great comic timing and found himself falling in love with a lady for the first time – one hat shop owner, Mrs Irene Molloy.
Played by Helen Knowles, this was a delightful, tender, confident, and warm performance as she endeavoured to bring some sort of normality in her life. Her main solo I’ll Be Wearing Ribbons Down My Back was beautifully controlled, bringing a gentle and touching moment in the show.
As Vandergelder’s young, inexperienced clerk, Logan Booth was at his magnificent best as the youthful, innocent, excitable, open-mouthed Barnaby Tucker who, also, finds love in the hat shop with shop assistant – the scatter-brained Minnie Fay – played with great gusto by Eilidh Smith. Her performance was a great caricature role for her as the flighty young shop girl with an adventurous eye for a young lad.
Thanks to “you-know-who” meddling, when all these characters eventually meet in the hat shop, total comedy chaos follows in a fast and furious comic sequence with all the players hiding in wardrobes, under tables, under hats, and anything suitable, which brought much amusement to the audience!
The full company also played an important role in the big musical set pieces and came alive on stage singing the great Jerry Herman song numbers - Put On Your Sunday Clothes (a colourful display of elegant costumes), Before The Parade Passes By (a typical American razz-a-matazz display of national fervour and . . . the show’s great showstopper itself – Hello Dolly!, which takes place in the very expensive Harmonia Gardens Restaurant.
It is here that Dolly makes her special entrance in this scene, welcomed by head waiter, Rudolph (Gordon Wood), and the male ensemble consisting of some red tail-coated waiters and ordinary customers. Sadly, there was a mish-mash clash of costumes here as this should have been an ensemble of male red tail-coated waiters adding a colourful dimension to the well known scene.
But, thanks to the excellent girl dancing team, wearing the famed red coats, along with the red coated males, they exonerated themselves in what is a show director’s, and choreographer’s, production nightmare – the fast-moving Waiters’ Gallop, where the waiters serve the customers food in a series of frenetic stage dance moves and athleticism.
It just so happens all the principal players end up in the luxurious restaurant along with Vandergelder’s niece, a weepy Ermengarde, (Mahri Smith) and boyfriend, Ambrose Kemper (Graham Lumsden), plus Vandergelder’s “unwanted date”, brassy Ernestina (Ruth Anderson). After much more mistaken confusion, all ends well with the couples ending up with their respective partner and weddings in the offing!
The production team obviously put a lot of hard work into the show and full marks to them – choreographer Lorna Lewis, musical director, Kate Doig, and her wonderful sounding orchestra, and director, Scott Melvin, using the very minimum of stage settings to ensure that the show ran smoothly. Sadly, all too soon it was time to say, “Bye-Bye, Dolly!”