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Celebrate the Golden Age of Broadway with Marriott’s Enthralling ‘Hello Dolly’

Hello Dolly is regarded as one of the last shows celebrating the Golden Age of Broadway. The lighthearted musical premiered in Detroit in 1963, then moved to Broadway in 1964.

The original production was directed and choreographed by Gower Champion. It earned 10 Tony Awards, including Best Musical. Carol Channing won the Tony for Best Performance by a Leading Lady in a Musical, Champion won both Best Direction of a Musical and Best Choreography, Jerry Herman won the trophy for Best Original Score, and Michael Stewart was honored for Best Book for a Musical.

It’s a simple, fun show with catchy music, based on Thornton Wilder’s 1938 farce The Merchant of Yonkers (later revised and retitled as The Matchmaker in 1955). Wilder’s play, itself, was an adaptation of the 1835 play A Day Well Spent by John Oxenford.

Now playing at Marriott Theatre in Lincolnshire through October 16, the story focuses on professional matchmaker Dolly Gallaher Levi – whose core business involves finding suitable marriage partners for those who can afford her services. In a running bit of comedy, Dolly also dabbles in an almost endless list of side businesses ranging from dance instructor to Counselor at Law.

Dolly has been hired by wealthy businessman Horace Vandergelder to find him a new wife. However, Dolly decides she should be Vandergelder’s new love – it will just take some fancy slight of hand to convince the business tycoon of the idea.

Meanwhile, two of Vandergelder’s overworked employees, Cornelius Hackl and young Barnaby Tucker, decide to ditch work and travel to New York for a day of fun and freedom. Bright eyed and innocent, Cornelius and Barnaby find love interests during their trip. Hat shop owner Irene Molloy and her assistant Minnie Fay capture the hearts of Cornelius and Barnaby, respectively. However, they do so under the mistaken belief that the two men are wealthy socialites.

Marriott Theatre is one of the best institutions of musical theater in the Midwest. The company has a long tradition of offering exceptional lead actors surrounded by ensembles of amazing singer/dancers. Under the skilled supervision of Tony-nominated director/choreographer Denis Jones, Hello Dolly fits that bill to a tee.

The role of Dolly requires an actress with exceptional talent. Marriott has just that in Heidi Kettenring – who previously has delighted Marriott audiences in The King & I, Footloose, Cats, and Funny Girl. Heidi Kettenring’s performance as Dolly is a masterclass in how to be a musical theater star. A Joseph Jefferson Award winner, she is absolutely captivating. Her dialogue and songs flow effortlessly as she enthralls the audience in a truly command performance.

Opposite Kettenring as Horace Vandergelder is her real-life husband David C. Girolmo, who made his Broadway debut in Candide under the direction of the legendary Hal Prince. Also a Joseph Jefferson Award winner, Girolmo perfectly captures the bombastic attitude of Dolly’s would-be love interest. How he softens his gruff outer shell when he eventually falls in love with Dolly is an impressive feat. Getting to see the real-life couple embrace at the end of the show is a very special moment.

Cornelius Hackl is a bit of a goofball. He may not be the smartest man in town, but he has a heart of gold. Alex Goodrich is one of the best actors in Chicago when it comes to playing quirky, off beat characters. As Cornelius, Goodrich is right in his element. He is a joy to watch.

Rebecca Hurd plays Cornelius’ love interest, Irene Molloy. She is an excellent actress with a soothing yet riveting vocal delivery. She is a delight.

Spencer Davis Milford plays Cornelius’ partner in crime, Barnaby Tucker. Milford provides a fun characterization and proves to be is an incredible dancer.

As the idiosyncratic girl who captures Barnaby’s heart, Amanda Walker is a memorable and thoroughly entertaining Minnie Fay.

The ensemble for Marriott’s Hello Dolly is fabulous. The singing and dancing is a joyous celebration of all the virtues of premium quality musical theater.

It is also worth noting that the orchestra under music director Ryan T. Nelson and conductor Brad Haak is deliciously enjoyable. But that is to be expected. Marriott’s musicians are consistently impressive. In all my years of reviewing Marriott’s productions, I have yet to hear a sour note from the orchestra.

Costumes by Theresa Ham are breathtaking. Scenic design by Jeffrey D. Kmiec and Milo Bue is simple but effective. As with most Marriott shows, the focus is on the performers.

Wig design by Miguel A. Armstrong and Megan E. Pirtle is inspiring. Jesse Klug (lighting design), Michael Daly (sound design), and Sally Zack (properties design) all contribute to an overall grand and glorious finished product.

Packed with memorable songs including Before the Parade Passes By, It Takes a Woman, Ribbons Down my Back, Dancing, and Hello Dolly, this is an entertainment experience you don’t want to miss.

The ensemble also includes Emily Ann Brooks, Michael Turrentine, George Keating, Johanna McKenzie Miller, Christien Bunuan, Cameron Holzman, Richard Strimer, Terrell Armstrong, Brian Bandura, Collin Bradley, Emily Ann Brooks, Christine Bunuan, Kaylee DaCosta, Marisa Fee, Ian Liberto, Alex Pouloutides, Emma Rosenthal, Laura Savage, and Richard Strimer. Swings are Sam Griffin and Jenna Napolitano.