at the Pines
By Jeannie Lieberman
Pines’ Arts Project’s musical of choice to close the 2013 season filled Whyte
Hall to the rafters with irrepressible joy and cheers with good reason as Jerry
Herman’s half century old musical Hello Dolly came once more to vivid
Project president Steven Alan Black said “I’m proudest of this production
because we took a large show and condensed it into a small space without
sacrificing its impact. Nicole Lafontaine was born to the role though one might
quibble she’s too young and pretty”.
indeed, thanks to the genius of Glen Wilgus (set & direction) and
choreographer Joe Barros, and music director Eric Martin for making his 7 piece
band (Tynan Hooker-Haring, bass, Mary Rodriguez percussion, Eileen Kelly and SJ
Nunzio Sisto reeds, Rebecca Steinberg trumpet, Chuck Wilson trombone, and John
Putnam guitar and banjo), sound like a 33 instrument Broadway orchestra, the
tiny production filled the hall, and everyone’s hearts.
The plot of Hello, Dolly! originated in John Oxenfeld’s
1835 English play, A Day Well Spent then translated into a German farce
which eventually morphed into a 1938 farcical play, The Merchant of Yonkers,
a flop, which Wilder revised and retitled The Matchmaker in 1955, expanding the
role of Dolly, played by Ruth Gordon, became a hit and was made into a 1958
film starring Shirley Booth.
The role of Dolly Levi in the musical was originally written for
Ethel Merman and was turned down by her and Mary Martin, almost played by Nancy
Walker before Carol Channing got it and made it her own. Director Gower
Champion got the job after Hal Prince, Jerome Robins and Joe Layton turned it
The show was originally entitled Dolly, A Damned Exasperating
Woman and Call on Dolly but Merrick changed the title immediately
upon hearing Louis Armstrong’s version of "Hello, Dolly". The show
became one of the most iconic Broadway shows of its era, the latter half of the
1960s, running for 2,844 performances, and was for a time the longest running
musical in Broadway history.
sprinkled with professionals; silk voiced Heather Koren as love struck Irene
Malloy, Luis Villabin in a gender reinterpretation of Minnie Fay, dancer/actors
Adam Surette, Corlyn Paine, Anna Ty Bergman as Horace’s squeaky niece
Ermengarde, and our own Steven Alan Black lighting up the stage with obvious
glee at each appearance as Stanley, it was the extremely talented and beloved
locals who helped deliver the show.
beautiful way this 50 year old play is constructed by Jerry Herman’s score and
Michael Stewart’s book with numbers that start small and grow entering around
the lone figure of Dolly (LaFountaine) singing “I put my hand in Here”
countered by Horace Vander Gelder’s “It takes a woman” including his hapless
staff Cornelius (Ryan Bell) and Barnaby ( Britton Saffer) sets up the plot –
of the meddlesome woman who wants to marry the town’s richest bachelor – and,
once meeting g the principals, they join the townspeople and go merrily on
their way into the madcap antics that make up great musical theater –
outdid themselves, cast and creators, in the perambulatory “Put On Your Sunday
Clothes” which led them from Yonkers by train (clever staging of ensemble) to
the magical New York. Added to the comedy are Ermengarde, Horace’s weepy niece,
and her determined artist swain Ambrose Kemper (James Duus and Anna Ty
Bergman). And Cornelius and Barnaby run smack into instant romance (the way it
can be in musicals) with Horace’s “intended” at Irene’s hat shop with even a
masculine Minnie for Barnaby in infamous New York.
melt as Irene croons “Ribbons Down My Back” seducing the vulnerable Cornelius
until Horace blunders in and there ensues a French farce of entrances and
a dance lesson in preparation (“Dancing”) the boys get inveigled into taking
the girls to dinner, convincing them it is elegant to walk (“Elegance”). And
one way or another everyone marches off to the expensive Harmonia Gardens
restaurant, Dolly’s old haunt, propelled by Jerry Herman’s dynamic “Before the
Parade Marches By” and what a parade indeed by the cast
there ”the plot thickens” as they say as Dolly sets Horace up with a hilarious
Mrs Rose (Laura Hartstein , who should be a pro) while the boys and gals are
ensconced concealed at a nearby private table with no money. Ambrose and
Ermagard try to win a dance contest until her uncle shows up.
Mrs. Rose leaves Horace in a huff Dolly magically turns up which launches into
one of musical theater’s most famous numbers, the title song “Hello Dolly”
showcasing the dance talents of the entire cast. She insinuates herself into
his dinner table and hilariously manipulates him into considering marrying her,
retorting with “So Long Dearie”
returns dejected to his home/business and somehow Dolly arranges a happy ending
for all. “Wonderful woman” says Horace. “Wonderful show” say we.
We meet Dolly and the
“I Put My Hand In” a perfect
Nicole Lafountaine as Dolly Levi
“It takes a Woman” gruff and
grumpy and wonderful John Cassese as Horace
“Put on Your Sunday Clothes”
Wonderful “Parade” staging and
“Ribbons Down My Back” by
silken voiced Heather Koren
Laura Hartstein, terrific
Horace and Mrs. Rose on ill
Get ready, Dolly’s coming………..
Here she is!!!
“Well Hello Dolly”
“You Go Your Way and I’ll Go
Mine” in Dolly’s great manipulation scene
Wilgus’ ingenious transition
from Harmonia Gardens to the Courtroom
Jack & Rita Lichtenstein as
the judge and court stenographer – this was his best performance ever
Give me a sign Ephram…….
Here it comes……. “money is like
manure, its not doing anyone any good unless you spread it around”
Dolly & Horace, together at
A well deserved bow
Curtain Call on the crowded
This was a special occasion for
Jack & Rita Lichtenstein.
One of the founders of the Arts
Project it was his 30th production, his 50th year in the
Pines and his 90th Birthday……..
And going strong – A Pines
family to be cherished (their grandson made a spectacular debut in Pines’
“Falsettos” and the beautiful granddaughters are rapt fans.