Put on your Sunday clothes and head to the Ritz Theater for Theater Latte Da's absolutely joyous production of Hello Dolly! They've set the classic musical in a racially diverse world, which is not untrue to the world of late 19th Century New York, it's just one we don't often see. They've also stripped the typically huge cast and orchestra down to about a third of the size. Though the costumes are scrumptious and the design is charming, there are no trains or trolleys driving across the stage, as seen in the recent Broadway revival and tour. But what this show lacks in size it makes up for in heart and gumption. It's a wonderful new take on a classic that lets the original story and beloved score shine. Hello Dolly! plays Wednesdays through Sundays until March 19, but don't wait too long to get tickets - this one will sell out.
|Dolly putting her hand in here and there
(photo by Dan Norman)
matchmaker/dance teacher/entrepreneur Dolly Levi is tired of working to make everyone else's lives better at the expense of her own. She decides to marry the noted "half a millionaire" Horace Vandergelder, and asks her beloved deceased husband for a sign to move on. In order to catch the gentleman, who is one of her clients, she sabotages the other matches. He's supposed to marry the widow Irene Molloy, owner of a hat shop, but Dolly quickly squashes that. Instead Irene falls in love with Horace's employee Cornelius who, along with his friend Barnaby, has come to New York City for an adventure. Said adventures include a parade, a dinner they can't pay for, a quick trip to jail, and falling in love. But this is Dolly's story, and when Dolly decides she wants something, she gets it, for better or worse.*
|T. Mychael Rambo and Regina Marie Williams as Horace and Dolly
(photo by Dan Norman)
|Hello, Dolly! (Regina Marie Williams and the ensemble,
photo by Dan Norman)
The versatile set, designed by Eli Sherlock, covers many locations. Walls painted in spring green with flowers surround a raised stage area, and two sections of the set on either side rotate to reveal the feed store and hat shop, doubling as the dining rooms in the second act. The four-piece band, under the direction of Music Director Sandford Moore, is somewhat visible through a door and window on the right side, under a sign that says "Moore's Music Emporium." This familiar and beloved score sounds fantastic in this smaller arrangement, with more of a chamber or jazzy feel.
The Chanhassen's longtime costume designer Rich Hamson has created a stunning array of colorful dresses with bustles, ruffles, and flounces, plus matching hats that are the biggest thing about this show (besides its heart). The men also look lovely in their smart suits. Add to that the various waiters, cops, and other costumes, and there's a lot of quick changing going on. And a shout-out to wig designer Emma Gustafson for the women's period updos that are so lovely, it's almost a shame to cover them with hats.
This is the Hello Dolly! we've loved for decades, done in a smaller, scrappy, inventive way to create Dolly's big bold world with less, and with a diverse cast that better represents the world as it is now and as it was then. The program includes an article about Black-owned businesses at this time in history, and another that highlights Black entrepreneurs of today (timely for Black History Month). When I first heard Theater Latte Da was doing Hello Dolly! this season, I thought it was an odd choice for a company that focuses on new work and moving the genre of music-theater forward into the future. But that's exactly what this production does - shows us a way to do a 60-year-old classic in a way that represents and speaks to today's world, without changing what we love about it.
See this joyous Hello Dolly! now through March 19, and to learn more about the story behind this show, see #TCTheater artist and music-theater history afficionado Max Wojtanowicz's edutainment show "The Pin Spot Series" on February 13.
Join me and my fellow Twin Cities Theater Bloggers for a special event at Chanhassen Dinner Theatres! Get $20 off the ticket price for the March 4 matinee performance of the regional premiere of the super fun and heart-warming musical THE PROM, and stick around after the show for a talk-back with some of the cast. Find more info in the Facebook event here, and purchase discount tickets using code TCTB1 or by clicking on this link (discount valid for March 4 1pm performance only).