Thursday, 9 March 2017

“Hello Dolly” by Erewash Musical Society.
Duchess Theatre, Long Eaton.
The show has become one of the most enduring musical theatre hits, enjoying three Broadway revivals and international success. It was also made into the 1969 film Hello Dolly! that was nominated for seven Academy Awards, and won three.
It’s so nice to have this musical back where it belongs, on the stage, be it local or National, it’s one of the great feel good musicals of our time, and it’s definitely looking swell and going strong if this production was anything to go by.
It’s the story of Dolly Levi,a professional match-maker, some would say meddler who is hired by Horace Vandergelder, a “rich” hay and feed dealer to find him a second wife. Dolly sets him up with Irene Molloy, but she has no intention of letting this blind date go ahead successfully because she has other plans for Mr Vandergelder which are purely selfish.
While the fat cat is away the underlings will do what they like and his clerks, Cornelius Hackl and Barnaby Tucker, decide to take an unauthorized holiday and end up aiding and abetting Dolly in her quest, quite unaware of what's unfolding.
There are various comical incidents which occur but there are happy endings all round.
Erewash Musical Society have the perfect cast for this show and I can't think of anyone who could play Dolly Levi better that Alex Tavener. her comic delivery is wonderful and the scene where Dolly and Horace are having a meal is just comedy heaven. Dolly's clothes are gorgeous in the "Hello Dolly" routine. They sparkle almost as bright as Alex's smile.
Grumpy tightwad Horace is played by Keith Butcher, and another excellent piece of casting if you ask me. Again some lovely comedy lines and brilliant characterisation.
Vandergelder's shop assistants, Cornelius Hackl and Barnaby Tucker are played by James Bowden and Martin Lewis and another well paired duo all round. the contrasting confident, but older Hackl and the 17 year old Tucker were great on their trip out of town to see the Barnum whale and kiss a girl. Well one out of two ain't bad.
Playing Vandergelder original set up, Irene Molloy was Tracey Renshaw. Irene runs the hat shop in New York with her assistant Minnie fay, played by Becki Charnley. One of the strengrhs of this musical is the pairings and this is another lovely, believable pairing.
It's been a very good year for Tom Preston, who plays the artist Ambrose Kemper in "Dolly". I saw him first last March in his very first production in "Copacabana" for EMS. He was so nervous in that show but since then his confidence has sky rocketed and his role in this show, shows how far he has come in local theatre. he oozed confidence in his acting, singing and dancing and is a natural comedy actor.
Another lovely comedy role is that of Kemper's intended, the weepy Ermengarde with the annoying, but comical wailings. Played with great gusto by Gem Blake.
The ensemble here is large but very, very good. They move as one and the choreography they are given is excellently executed, thanks to an excellent choreographer Siân Scattergood. I especially loved the work for "The Waiter's Gallop" which was timed to perfection and "Hello Dolly", both pure Hollywood glamour.
I also loved the close harmonies, especially the male ensemble who sounded quite barber shop at times. Just magical.
There were some notes that weren't quite hit though but I know that there are a few nasty bugs going around which would affect the voices on stage but on the whole the cast did a wonderful job, and those who were blighted by the bugs got through their songs admirably. The sign of professionalism.
Really good use of backdrop scenery projection, and while this can sometimes be a bit over the top if not paired with other scenery, this show played to their advantage with the projection and it only added to the extra props and scenery, giving a cinematic feel to the musical.
I mentioned the costumes earlier and they looked marvellous on all the cast.Thanks to Stageworld at Wolverhampton this production provided the glamour and decadence of the period and added yet another professional veneer to the show.
The band, under the direction of Lizzie Bullard were, as usual excellent, tight and tuneful. Never swamping the actors who were mic'd up, making sure that the mix between the band and the actors were heard perfectly. Credit to the sound guys Dave Dallard and Ben Tennett.
Some lovely songs in this musical, not only the rousing title track but the jaunty "It Takes A Woman", "Put On Your Sunday Clothes","Before The Parade Passes By" and "So Long Dearie" as well as some slower moments such as the elegant "Ribbons Down My Back". A lovely soundtrack.
Another guy who is always on top of his game making the actors look their best is Dave Martin who controls the lighting.
Unobtrusive stage management meant that, although you could see the scenery being moved, they did it while the action was ongoing, meaning that these stage ninjas did their job with the minimum of fuss.
I said at the start that this is a wonderful feel good musical and you will leave the Duchess feeling very good about the time you've spent watching this lovely light hearted show.
“Hello Dolly” is making the room, the band and the audience sway at The Duchess Theatre in Long Eaton until Saturday 11 March 2017.

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