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Theater review: OKC's Lyric Theatre pulls out all the stops with dazzling 'Hello, Dolly!'

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Dee Hoty stars in Lyric Theatre's production of "Hello, Dolly!" [Photo by KO Rinearson]
Dee Hoty stars in Lyric Theatre's production of "Hello, Dolly!" [Photo by KO Rinearson]

An abbreviated version of this review will appear in Friday's Weekend Life section of The Oklahoman.

Theater review
Lyric pulls out all the stops with dazzling 'Hello, Dolly!'

It only takes a moment to fall in love with “Hello, Dolly!”

The classic musical is just packed with indelible moments: when the title character uproariously stuffs her face with dumplings while the entire ensemble looks on; when the nimble waiters frolic with their silver trays and ice buckets in the restaurant scene; and, of course, when Dolly makes her dramatic Act 2 entrance at the top of the staircase in her sparkling red gown.  

In its lavish new production that puts the “extra” in extravaganza, Lyric Theatre plays every iconic moment to maximum effect, making it practically impossible for any musical theater fan not to adore it. Just the more than 200 elaborate period outfits Lyric resident costume designer Jeffrey Meek and his team have spent the last three months building alone are worth the price of a ticket to “Hello, Dolly!”, the second production on Lyric’s “Summer at the Civic” season.

Set in New York at the turn of the 20th century, Lyric’s production stars three-time Tony Award nominee Dee Hoty as Mrs. Dolly Gallagher Levi, a fast-talking matchmaker, self-described meddler and card-carrying side-hustler whose latest gig is finding a new wife for unabashedly grouchy and stingy “half-a-millionaire” widower Horace Vandergelder (George Dvorsky). The show reunites Hoty and Dvorsky, who also played the leads in Lyric’s 2014 presentation of “A Little Night Music,” and the actors have an inviting rapport.  

But Dolly also has been commissioned by struggling artist Ambrose Kemper (Jackson Walker) to help him make a match with Vandergelder’s melodramatic niece Ermengarde (Megan Carpenter), whom he wishes to marry over the curmudgeonly businessman’s objections (and despite his would-be fiance's tendency to yowl like a cat in heat whenever she’s upset).

When Vandergelder travels from his hometown of Yonkers to New York City with the intention of proposing to widowed hat shop owner Irene Molloy (Kristy Cates), Dolly secretly dispatches Ambrose and Ermengarde to the Big Apple, too, with a plan to prove that the artist can make a decent living for the young couple. 

But Dolly also schemes to prevent Vandergelder from popping the question to Irene, for the simple reason that the matchmaker, who is also widowed and ready to wed again, wants to marry him herself.

Matthew Alvin Brown, center, plays Cornelius Hackl in Lyric Theatre's production of "Hello, Dolly!" [Photo by KO Rinearson]
Matthew Alvin Brown, center, plays Cornelius Hackl in Lyric Theatre's production of "Hello, Dolly!" [Photo by KO Rinearson]

Back in Yonkers, Cornelius Hackl (Matthew Alvin Brown) and Barnaby Tucker (Gordie Beingessner), the oppressed clerks at Vandergelder’s feed store, plot to shut down the store so they also can journey to New York in search of at least one day of freedom, adventure and, hopefully, love. When they wander into Irene’s shop and cross paths with the restless owner and her chatty clerk Minnie Fay (Virginia Newsome), the stage is set for a madcap romp that includes a stage-filling parade, a show-stopping cabaret and a gut-busting stop in a New York City courtroom.

Directed by Lyric’s Associate Artistic Director Ashley Wells and choreographed by Company Manager Matthew Sipress, who both worked on the 1990s Broadway revival starring Carol Channing, Lyric’s “Hello, Dolly!” lives up to the exclamation point in the title, leaving no bell unrung and no whistle unblown. Their love for Kennedy Center honoree Jerry Herman’s iconic music and lyrics, as well as Michael Stewart’s book based on Thornton Wilder’s “The Matchmaker,” is apparent in every aspect of the splendid production.

In her first outing as Dolly, Hoty exudes charisma as well as longing as the good-natured, golden-tongued schemer, plus she boasts the stage presence to garner immediate applause when she strikes that iconic pose in her spangly red dress and feathered headdress. Lighting designer Helena Kuukka earns her kudos for this scene alone, as the spotlights dazzle across Dolly’s bejeweled finery.

Likewise, Meek and Co. garnered spontaneous cheers Tuesday night for the Technicolor costume procession during “Put on Your Sunday Clothes,” with the performers high-stepping proudly in all their bustled, plaid and feathered glory along the stage extension surrounding the pit, where the incomparable David Andrews Rogers conducts the spirited 22-piece orchestra. Scenic Designer Kimberly Powers’ quaint and clever sets are equally glorious.

Both popularized by the Oscar-winning animated movie “WALL-E,” the lively numbers “Put on Your Sunday Clothes” and “It Only Takes a Moment” are ideal showcases for the ever-charming Brown, a longtime local favorite who sparks a lovely warmth with Cates, a Broadway belter who manages to upstage the parade with Irene’s big number “Ribbons Down My Back.”

Lyric Theatre's production of "Hello, Dolly!" continues through Sunday at the Civic Center Music Hall. [Photo by KO Rinearson]
Lyric Theatre's production of "Hello, Dolly!" continues through Sunday at the Civic Center Music Hall. [Photo by KO Rinearson]

Unlike many modern musicals, “Hello, Dolly!” is as much about the dance as it is the song, and Sipress gives his plucky ensemble quite a workout, especially in the exhilarating title number, set in the ritzy Harmonia Gardens restaurant, where the adoring waiters pay tribute to Dolly by fencing with oversized kabob skewers, vaulting over tables and even leaping over the orchestra pit to land at her feet.

They don’t make them like “Hello, Dolly!” anymore in this age of smaller, more intimate and economical musicals, but the title couldn’t be timelier, with a blockbuster Broadway revival continuing to sell out as it alternates Tony-winning superstars Bette Midler and Bernadette Peters in the starring role.

Despite a few opening-night bloopers – curly mustaches that peeled off sweaty dancers’ faces and a few lines of the twisty, rapid-fire dialogue that got some of the performers tongue-tied -- my face was aching by intermission of Tuesday’s performance. It wasn’t necessarily from laughing – although the show is packed with wholesome hilarity – but just from grinning at the effervescent joy of it all. After seeing Lyric’s production with my 8-year-old daughter Brenna, I’m convinced that every musical theater fan should see the full-scale version of “Hello, Dolly!” live at least once.

Lyric’s “Hello, Dolly!” is playing through Sunday at the Civic Center Music Hall.

ON STAGE

Lyric Theatre’s “Hello, Dolly!”

When: 7:30 p.m. today and Thursday, 8 p.m. Friday, 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. July 15.

Where: Civic Center Music Hall, 201 N Walker.

Tickets and information: lyrictheatreokc.com or 297-2264.

-BAM 

Related Photos
Dee Hoty stars in Lyric Theatre's production of "Hello, Dolly!" [Photo by KO Rinearson]

Dee Hoty stars in Lyric Theatre's production of "Hello, Dolly!" [Photo by KO Rinearson]

<figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-b24863bd68f4a22695ed4520bbdc3aad.jpg" alt="Photo - Dee Hoty stars in Lyric Theatre's production of "Hello, Dolly!" [Photo by KO Rinearson]" title="Dee Hoty stars in Lyric Theatre's production of "Hello, Dolly!" [Photo by KO Rinearson]"><figcaption>Dee Hoty stars in Lyric Theatre's production of "Hello, Dolly!" [Photo by KO Rinearson]</figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-293999dbf2465961beb149a804c51eec.jpg" alt="Photo - Matthew Alvin Brown, center, plays Cornelius Hackl in Lyric Theatre's production of "Hello, Dolly!" [Photo by KO Rinearson]" title="Matthew Alvin Brown, center, plays Cornelius Hackl in Lyric Theatre's production of "Hello, Dolly!" [Photo by KO Rinearson]"><figcaption>Matthew Alvin Brown, center, plays Cornelius Hackl in Lyric Theatre's production of "Hello, Dolly!" [Photo by KO Rinearson]</figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-74fe73c1fafff05ef197fb2d44d0e35c.jpg" alt="Photo - Lyric Theatre's production of "Hello, Dolly!" continues through Sunday at the Civic Center Music Hall. [Photo by KO Rinearson]" title="Lyric Theatre's production of "Hello, Dolly!" continues through Sunday at the Civic Center Music Hall. [Photo by KO Rinearson]"><figcaption>Lyric Theatre's production of "Hello, Dolly!" continues through Sunday at the Civic Center Music Hall. [Photo by KO Rinearson]</figcaption></figure>
Brandy McDonnell

Brandy McDonnell, also known by her initials BAM, writes stories and reviews on movies, music, the arts and other aspects of entertainment. She is NewsOK’s top blogger: Her 4-year-old... Read more ›

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