"Hello, Dolly!" at Elizabeth Howard's Curtain Call Dinner Theatre proves that there are still a few surprises left in the old girl yet.
This latest revival of the musical based on Thornton Wilder's "The Matchmaker" features some canny editing, including a revamped ending. The cumbersome courthouse confrontation between an enraged Horace Vandergelder and a defiant Dolly Levi is bypassed without losing either the story line or the spirit in the process.
The fresh vocal harmonies provide another surprise, offering new variations on the familiar Jerry Herman score. Of course, it helps to have a solid chorus, which is the happy circumstance here.
Nearly all of the characterizations are very big, which lends a bright, cartoon quality to the proceedings. But the sentiment--displayed in the characters' chatty asides to the audience--is genuine.
Deborah Brucher-Wren is all sass and brass as the intrepid Dolly, managing to carry off both the vocals and the characterization with her warmth. Although Brucher-Wren half-talks her way through several songs in her distinctively husky voice, she glides confidently (and comfortably) through the title tune.
Dale Jones finds a grumpy dignity in the role of the irascible Horace, which makes his romantic tug-of-war with Dolly more of a fair fight and a lot of fun to watch.
Jones and Brucher-Wren get good support from Tim Nelson and Robert Anthony as small-town clerks unleashed on the big city with 90 cents in their pockets, and also from Kathryn Burns and Tracy Rowe as the pretty ladies who accompany these sports for a wild night out on the town.
There are some familiar turns missing from this version--missing that is, but not necessarily missed. For example, the waiters' gallop through the Harmonia Gardens Restaurant--precariously juggling plates and trays--has been reduced to a quick detour. With such limited space on stage, the choreography wisely doesn't try for spectacle, but rather to capture the spirit and the mood, which it does with zest.
One nice touch has chorus members popping out of feed bins in Vandergelder's hay and feed store as they sing the praises of a hard-working wife.