Nancy Sasso Janis
The Castle Craig Players of Meriden are celebrating the 50th anniversary of the (ten) Tony Award winning Best Musical, HELLO, DOLLY! with an excellent production that opens on August 7 at the Almira F. Stephan Memorial Playhouse in Meriden, CT. Ian Galligan directs the musical that is based on ‘The Matchmaker’ by Thornton Wilder. Andrew Gadwah serves as musical director and plays all the wonderful music by Jerry Herman on the piano.
Mr. Galligan has many directing credits, as well as some memorable on-stage credits (I will never forget the first time I saw him as Bud Frump in ‘How to Succeed’ at Seven Angels.) He has proven himself to be a talented director/choreographer and it shows in this always entertaining “good old-fashioned Broadway musical.” In his bio, he sends a huge thank you to this “amazing” cast and rightly so, because he has assembled a bevy of talented singer/dancers to portray the various roles. Having Mr. Gadwah behind the theater’s piano once again is frothy icing on the cake.
Susan Smith Thom is bold and brassy as the manipulative Dolly Gallagher Levi. Her acting credits include Mama Rose in ‘Gypsy’ and she certainly has the powerful voice for both roles. Her comic timing was spot on and as she made the judge wait for her to speak while continuing to eat her turkey dinner, she almost broke up her fellow cast members. The preview audience loved it.
Kevin Reid does well as the blustery Horace Vandergelder in his Castle Craig debut, although he started his acting career at the age of 15. Jim Kane also makes his debut at this theater in the role of Cornelius Hackl and gives a fine performance as the ernest clerk. Oliver Kochol, a rising junior at UCONN, is so good as young Barnaby Tucker that he stands out in all his scenes. A fine dancer with excellent comic timing, he also made his frequent pratt falls look easy.
The beautiful voice of Allison Mohler shines in her portrayal of the widowed milliner Irene Molloy. She glows in her long dresses and lovely headgear and also makes her CCP debut. Jennifer Del Sole made her debut on this stage many years ago and will begin her career as a middle school special education teacher in the fall. She plays the luminous Minnie Fay that works with Mrs. Molloy in the hat shop.
Emma Czaplinski returns to this stage to wail constantly as Horace’s niece Ermengarde and college junior Zach Fontanez is her beloved Ambrose Kemper. Diane Warner-Canova, a long time CCP volunteer, plays Ernestina broadly and is slyly funny. I was so glad to see that the terrific Wesley Tack, who has appeared in a slew of CCP productions, has a wonderful part in this show as Rudolph the head waiter of the Harnonia Gardens Restaurant . Of course he made the most of it and his other ensemble roles; no one looks better in a straw hat.
Deane Poirier is the fun Mrs. Rose and Michael Dolan plays the Judge, while Arthur Canova was a standout as the court clerk and even more so as the chef at the restaurant. The talented dancer/singers in the ensemble include Matt Czaplinski, Kendra Kochol, Jasmine McLeish, Jorge Melendez, Hilary Rolstone and one last minute substitute member.
My teen and I laughed at Dolly’s antics as the nicely staged scenes unfolded, and we enjoyed the tight choreography in the opening number “Call on Dolly,” “Motherhood,” and of course “The Waiter’s Gallop” when the employees dance, sing and ride (!) to welcome Dolly “back where you belong.” The guys of the cast made their moment shine in “It Takes a Woman.” Mr. Galligan did an admirable job of making the grandness of this show fit upon this black box stage.
Costumes by the director and several others were period perfect and flattering to all. I especially loved the final hat for Dolly. Wigs by Joel Silvestro were just as good. Simone McMahon helped Mr. Galligan with the lovely choreography that didn’t overwhelm this stage that was recently renovated and expanded but is still in an intimate theater.
I recommend this production that will open on Aug. 7 and run through Aug. 16. Seating is limited and opening night is already sold out, so call ahead for tickets.
HELLO, DOLLY! will be presented for six performances only – August 7-16 (Fridays & Saturdays at 7:30pm, Sundays at 2:00pm) at The Almira F. Stephan Memorial Playhouse, 59 West Main Street, Meriden, CT. Tickets are $20. Tickets may be purchased online at www.CastleCraig.org or over the phone by calling toll-free 1-800-838-3006.