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'Hello Dolly' is dated but delightful

August 04, 2005

Christopher Trela

Dated but never out of date, the musical comedy "Hello Dolly" has

become a beloved staple of community theater stages everywhere. That

includes Orange County, where the Huntington Beach Playhouse is

staging a sparkling production that runs through Aug. 14.

With music and lyrics by Jerry Herman and a book by Michael

Stewart (based on Thornton Wilder's "The Matchmaker"), "Hello Dolly"

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opened on Broadway in January 1964 and ran for nearly 3,000

performances, winning both the Tony and Drama Critics Circle awards

for best musical. The show chronicles the exploits of Dolly Levi as

she arranges people's romantic lives, including her own, in the

1890s.

Originally staged by the great director-choreographer Gower

Champion, "Hello Dolly" premiered with Carol Channing in the title

role. In 1967 producer David Merrick gave the show new life with an

all-black cast headed by Pearl Bailey.

At Huntington Beach Playhouse, Selma Pinkard plays Dolly, and she

wears the role like a comfortable coat that's just been cleaned. Her

delightful interpretation of Dolly and her natural stage presence

give her an air of authority without unnecessarily commandeering the

stage and shifting focus from the action.

Director James W. Gruessing Jr. has assembled an excellent

ensemble cast to back up Pinkard. Standouts include Anne Fraser

Thomas as Irene Molloy, a millinery shop owner whose romantic

adventures are arranged with the help of Dolly. Molloy has a terrific

voice capable of belting out boisterous numbers and tender ballads

with ease. Her biography states she is in the cast of "Aladdin: A

Musical Spectacular" at Disney's California Adventure, so nabbing her

for this show was a real coup.

Thomas' real-life husband, Daniel, plays her love interest,

Cornelius Hackl, and he is a joy to watch. His expert comic timing

and energetic stage presence -- plus a nice singing voice -- buoy his

scenes and help keep the show's momentum flowing smoothly.

Michael Anthony Nozzi has fun with his role of Horace

Vandergelder, who hires Dolly to help him woo one woman but ends up

with another and another. Amy Glinskas is a hoot as the ditzy Ernesta

Money, one of Horace's disaster dates.

Kudos to Kami Seymour for the appropriately cute and clever

choreography, and to the excellent group of dancers who execute their

tricky steps with aplomb.

Now more than 40 years old, "Hello Dolly" is beginning to show its

age. Still, it's a fun show, as this production proves.

The opening night audience certainly enjoyed it -- they gave

"Hello Dolly" a standing ovation.

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