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Classical, Continually Popular Tony Award Winning Broadway Smash Hit “Hello Dolly” – at the Marriott Lincolnshire

Hello, Dolly currently at the Marriott Lincolnshire has an extensive, colorful history of success. Three-time Pulitzer Prize-winning American author and playwright, Thornton Niven Wilder won for two plays Our Town, The Skin of Our Teeth, and his novel The Bridge Over San Luis Rey. In 1938 he penned the musical farce The Merchant of Yonkers possibly, adapted from the plot of an 1835 English play A Day Well Spent by John Oxenford. He revised and retitled The Merchant of Yonkers into The Match Maker in 1955. In 1964 Michael Stewart wrote the book and Jerry Herman created music and lyrics for the ten-time Tony Award Winner including Best Musical Hello Dolly based on Wilder’s The Matchmaker. Ever since Hello Dolly has remained an audience favorite starring such legendary actresses as Carol Channing, Pearl Baily, and Barbara Streisand.

The inimitable Dolly Gallagher Levi is portrayed by Heidi Kettering. She is a favorite of Marriott fans with twenty-five appearances (The King & I, Cats, Footloose, Funny Girl). Her portrayal does the legendary actress parade before her proud. Kettering is a consummate professional with a voice and presence bar none. She is also the recipient of a Jeff Award and eight nominations. She has had two Broadway World Awards and an After Dark Award. Her solo dining scene caused the audience to titter with anticipation and then break out in loud guffaws at her hearty gluttonous appetite for food and drink. It was a brilliant well-timed comic scene enrapturing the audience.

Dolly Gallagher Levi is a brash, but affable widowed socialite turned matchmaker in 1890s New York City. Her latest clients are the crusty “half-a-millionaire”, Horace Vandergelder, masterly played by Heidi Kettering’s real-life husband, David C. Girolmo, and a young artist Ambrose Kemper portrayed by the lively talented dancer Michael Turrentine. Vangelder is all about money so he is vehemently opposed to his niece, Ermengarde, falling in love and wishing to marry a shiftless artist. Emily Ann Brooks as Ermengarde is a sniveling, over-the-top, drama queen who has the audience engaged in uproarious laughter at her affected demeanor.

Hello Dolly is expertly directed and choreographed by 2-time Tony Award nominee Denis Jones (Marriott and Broadway’s Holiday Inn, Honeymoon in Vegas, Broadway’s Tootsie). This is indeed a toe-tapping want to sing-along, joyful production with the most memorable songs and lyrics in musical history. The orchestra conductor, Brad Haak, and his skilled musicians accomplish a stellar performance, as usual. Theresa Ham’s period costume designs are rich, colorful, gorgeous and a delight to the eyes. Set Design by Jeffrey D. Kmiec & Milo Bue set the mood while echoing the time period perfectly as did the Lighting Design by Jesse Klug.

Dolly the consummate entrepreneur is always scheming. She soon involves Horace’s two employees in her secret plot. Chief Clerk Alex Goodrich as Cornelius Hackl is a standout comedian. His humorous slapstick sidekick Spencer Davis Milford as Barnaby Tucker, a store clerk, is a perfect buddy and partner in crime looking for a stuffed whale and romantic adventure in New York City. They meet up with Millner Irene Molloy played by exceptional actor Rebecca Hurd. She has a charismatic stage presence. Her assistant Minnie Fay is depicted by Amanda Walker who is a phenomenal dancer and singer, but at times I found her dialogue hard to discern.

The entire ensemble cast is phenomenal as they sing and dance. Their athleticism is jaw-dropping. The choruses are astoundingly beautiful. Life is ludicrous and the Hello Dolly buffoonery reminds us of that fact, but in the end, love makes it all worthwhile. This production is gushing exuberance and joy. You will leave the theater with a smile miles after the closing number. I loved the long-standing ovation for the cast and that most of the audience joined in singing the actors off-stage.