Nancy Sasso Janis
- OnStage Connecticut Critic
“Enjoy every minute of it because it only takes a moment before the parade passes by!” - Karl Hinger (Cornelius) to the cast
Danbury, CT - Musicals at RIchter in Danbury CT opened their thirtieth anniversary season this weekend on a chilly Friday evening. MAR is Connecticut’s longest running outdoor theatre and the aspiration of their board of directors has always been to provide high quality, family entertainment under the starts at an affordable price. Bradford Blake, MAR’s Founding Artistic Director, could not have been more excited as he opened yet another season on the outdoor stage.
Mr. Blake served as both director and choreographer for the first musical of the season, the nostalgic ‘Hello, Dolly!’ MAR also did the show back in 1990 and 2004. The musical based on the play ‘The Matchmaker’ by Thornton Wilder, features a book by Michael Stewart with music and lyrics by Jerry Herman. The MAR cast felt a bit small for this stage, but the talent of the male chorus was impressive and the choreography was well executed.
Unfortunately, there were a slew of mishaps at the chilly opening night performance. There were some line and lyric issues, props were dropped, Dolly’s hat got tangled in a twirl and fell off in the hat shop, microphones were not turned on for some actors in time but several backstage whispered exchanges could be heard. A few notes didn’t come out quite right and one musical cue was off but the cast continued through it all with aplomb.
The ensembles of both genders did a great job with all of the song and dance numbers and their harmony was really impressive for only fourteen singers. Amber Levine, a sophomore at Western CT State University, served as Dance Captain and Rudolph (played by Michael Wright) and the guys almost stole the show with “The Waiter’s Gallop.” I am not sure who had the cameo as the judge on opening night; the black robe, white wig and mustache are shared by Matt Austin, Ted Schwartz and Steve Stott.
Dr. Barbara Kessler, a biology teacher in Brookfield, returned to the MAR stage in the funny role of Ernestina and Dolly Connor did a great job with the walk on role of Dolly’s old neighbor, Mrs. Rose. Jessica Cerasoli did the constant crying of Ermengarde and WCSU rising sophomore Cole Urso was her devoted Ambrose Kemper. Karl Hinger (whose brother Brian made his MAR debut in the ensemble) was very strong in the role of Cornelius Hackl while WCSU student Andrew Kocur was quite adorable as his sidekick Barnaby Tucker.
Katherine Wolff used her flawless singing voice to make the most of the role of Irene Malloy and the Hartt School student truly looked the part in her great costume changes. I was thrilled to see Lexi Tobin in the fun role of Minnie Fay; I have always enjoyed her work onstage with all three seasons of the 1214 Foundation in Newtown.
Cat Heidel returned to the MAR stage for her seventh season to take on the title role of Dolly Gallagher. Ms. Heidel is always a strong actress (think Ursula in Landmark’s ‘The Little Mermaid’) and her take on Dolly was no exception. Levi Mike Armstrong held his own as the blustery Horace Vandergelder.
Peter Randazzo, who I usually see at Amity Regional HS, was the conductor of the larger than usual orchestra that sounded very full. The musicians sit in a tent next to the stage.
There were at least three large movable set pieces that rotated, as well as a few smaller pieces that appeared in order to take us to the various locations in Dolly’s world. Kudos to Edgar Kniffen, Pay McCoy and the cast on a very impressive set that was lit nicely by Mike Campbell and Adam Romano. Lauren Nicole Sherwood worked her usual magic with the piles of terrific period costumes and excellent wigs, while Wendy Wildman provided the fine costumes for Mrs. Levi.
‘Hello, Dolly!’ continues at Musicals at Richter through June 25 and if the current weather continues, don’t forget a warm winter coat and a blanket along with your picnic basket and bug spray to enjoy an evening of theatre under the stars.
Photos by David Henningsen