Hello, Dolly!

The Matchmaker is a Hit!

The High School Project is a speciality of London’s Grand Theatre.  They present two productions each year, (one musical, one play) where high school students audition for roles.  The productions are put together by professional directors, choreographers and musical directors.  Students also apply for positions in the orchestra and as crew, working with theatre professionals on props, wardrobe, sets, sound, lighting, and stage management.  This fall’s High School Project is Hello, Dolly!

Dolly Gallagher Levi is savvy, sassy and yet sweet – and young actress Isabella Wolder fits that role perfectly, in Hello, Dolly! now on stage at London’s Grand Theatre.  It is a wonderful romp back to the 1890s in Yonkers.  Dolly Levi is a widow, missing her husband, but quite capable of looking after herself.  She is a matchmaker who finds suitable spouses for others, but at the same time, asking her late husband for a sign that she should find a mate for herself.  On the side, she also offers dance lessons, mandolin instruction and many more options.

It seems like half the population of Yonkers is eager to go into New York City to see the parade.  Dolly uses this opportunity to acquaint her client, the wealthy Horace Vandergelder, with a couple of potential matches.  But Dolly also finds ways to discourage these matches, wanting to keep Horace for herself.  In the meantime, two of Horace’s store clerks, Cornelius and Barnaby, play hooky from work to go to the city, too, each hoping to kiss a girl for the first time.  Luckily, they meet up with the widow Mrs. Malloy and Minne Fay.

Dolly Isabella WolderIsabella Wolder is a delight as Dolly.  She has the verve down pat, and the singing voice to match.  Her enthusiasm is infectious, and the entire cast rises to meet the standard she sets.  Her crew of dancing waiters, maitre d’, and chefs who welcome her back with a rousing chorus of the title song Hello, Dolly! are perfect.  As well as strong singing voices, they give an excellent combination soft shoe and tap dance.

Christopher Pitre-McBride’s comedic talents stand out as the hapless Barnaby Tucker. Zach Peddie as Cornelius Hackl and Danie Dixon as Mrs. Irene Malloy demonstrate excellent vocal abilities with the song It Only Takes a Moment.  Keirsten Overton and Max Chevrier show their talent as Minnie Fay and Horace Vandergelder.  The rest of the supporting characters, the ensemble and dancers are all excellent.  In total, 43 high school students are on stage, two playing instruments with the musicians in the pit, and 16 in the crew.

Credit goes to Costume Designer Lisa Wright for the “steampunk look”.  Dresses are in 1890s style but exaggerated for fun.  Colours are subdued beiges, browns and maroons, which make the unusual accessories stand out.  In act two, when Dolly arrives in a glamourous bright red gown, she stands out among the muted colours.

Kudos to the Grand’s Artistic Director Susan Ferley who directed this production, Choreographer Sara-Jeanne Hosie, and Musical Director Floydd Ricketts for taking a group of high school students and creating performances worthy of the Grand’s professional stage.

Hello, Dolly! this fall’s High School Project,  continues at the Grand Theatre, London until October 3.  Tickets are available at the Grand box office at 672-8800 or 1-800-265-1593 or visit www.grandtheatre.com.

Photo: Hello, Dolly! with Isabella Wolder as Dolly Levi.  Photo by Craig Glover

Hello, Dolly!
Book by Michael Stewart
Music and Lyrics by Jerry Herman
Directed by Susan Ferley
Choreographed by Sara-Jeanne Hosie
Musical Direction by Floydd Ricketts
Performed by Isabella Wolder et al.
High School Project
Grand Theatre, London
September 22 to October 3, 2015
Reviewed by Mary Alderson

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