The Vancouver Playhouse Theatre Company
The Vancouver Playhouse
Reviewer: Jane Penistan
Michael Shamata Musical Director: Lloyd Nicholson Choreographer:
What is the recipe for a good musical? A slightly sentimental comedy, good music, catchy tunes, toe tapping rhythms and graceful, energetic, well rehearsed dancing, plus a sense of humour and an effervescence of happiness. Put these together with an intelligent sympathetic director, an orchestra and conductor who are in harmony with the director, designers of imagination and actors, dancers, and singers led by a brilliant conductor and no less brilliant choreographer. Sounds like an impossible dream. When Hello, Dolly! opened at the Playhouse on Thursday evening this dream just about came true.
Michael Stewart transposed Thornton Wilder's happy comedy The Matchmaker into a musical which became a hit in the 1960s. Today it is as relevant and intriguing as ever. Michael Shamata has combined the talents of his cast, designers, musicians and crew to present an enchanted evening.
John Ferguson's colourful mobile sets are an admirable background for the lavish and extravagant costumes and hats Nancy Bryant has dreamed up. The changeability of the sets is almost magical, especially when choreographed by Lisa Stevens. In fact the scene changing is so ingenious and fascinating that it adds to the bubbling exuberance of the production. The orchestra, sometimes suspended in mid air, and sometimes invisible, conducted by Lloyd Nicholson, gives the actors, dancers and singers solid, rhythmical and musical support.
As always, Jay Brazeau turns in a stellar performance. As Horace Vandergelder, he is the only unlovable character in the play, though the artful Dolly (Susinn McFarlen) sees through his crustiness and sets her cap
at him from the start. Dolly's wiles and machinations are the driving force which tunefully resolve all the problems of the rest of the young and not so young characters of this romantic comedy.
The impoverished and athletic shop assistants, Cornelius Hackl (Alexander Ferguson) and Barnaby Tucker (Shane Snow), playing hooky, repair to New York to enjoy the delights of the city as well as surreptitiously watching their employer in the parade. Dinner with ladies at an unaffordable restaurant, avoiding being seen by Horace and Dolly, is one of this productions intricately managed scenes. No one could forget the elegant and well voiced Jennifer Lines as the charming Mrs. Irene Molloy. Rebecca Auerbach is a sweet and innocent, neat footed Minnie Fay.
The ladies and gentlemen of the chorus, including Jim Hibbard, who danced in the 1969 movie version, the heart and soul of any musical, are superb. Not only do they sing with strength and harmony, they dance impeccably. The waiters' dance, at the opening of the second act, is the highlight of the show. It alone is worth the price of admission. Coupled with all the other bonuses of this excellent production, The Playhouse has a rare jewel glittering on its stage. For sheer enjoyment Hello, Dolly! Is this season's top entertainment, and we're so glad to see it.
Hello, Dolly! runs at The Playhouse, Hamilton at Dunsmuir, November 8 - December 13, 2003 at 8.00 p.m., Monday through Saturday, with matinees on Saturdays and select Wednesdays and Thursdays at 2.00 p.m. There are no shows on Sundays, November 11 or Monday December 1st. 2003. For information about special performances, ticket prices and reservations call The Production Centre Audience Services, 604-873-3311
© 2003, Jane Penistan