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Marriott’s “HELLO, DOLLY!” True Theatrical Magic!

Pandemic-era theater audiences are pretty used to some unexpected drama with their drama these days. So when things did not go according to Hoyle with the hydraulic system at the highly-anticipated opening of “Hello, Dolly!” on Thursday at the Marriott Theatre Lincolnshire, everyone took it in stride. On the heels of a troubling Covid outbreak, one might suspect some other-worldly intervention at work—perhaps the spirit of Thornton Wilder himself—on the beloved Michael Stewart/Jerry Herman musical starring the equally beloved Heidi Kettenring in a role that she was born to play.

Whether or not Wilder had a mystic hand in it all, the show went on and, just like that, musical theatre as we know it returned in fine form. Resplendent in picture-perfect period costumes by Teresa Ham, Kettenring’s Dolly is elegant, understated and flawless. The action moves briskly from the imaginative ride on a turn-of-the-century street car from Yonkers to New York’s Harmonia Gardens, where Dolly and her Vandergelder—real life heartthrob and husband David C. Girolmo—create true theatrical magic together.

Director and choreographer Denis Jones, musical director Ryan T. Nelson and conductor Brad Haak have welcomed Dolly Levi back where she belongs with the grace and high society style that this legendary show deserves. The terrific supporting cast is filled to the brim with seasoned players and triple-threat newcomers including Rebecca Hurd (Irene Molloy), Alex Goodrich (Cornelius Hackl), Amanda Walker (Minnie Fay), Spencer Davis Milford (Barnaby Tucker), Emily Ann Brooks (Ermengade), Michael Turrentine (Ambrose Kemper), George Keating (Rudolph) and Johanna McKenzie Miller (Ernestina).

The musical, based on Wilder’s 1954 play “The Matchmaker,” is equal parts farce and uproarious comedy wrapped in lush, musical explorations of love and longing, with a healthy dose of chicanery and lighthearted larceny rolled in. Jones has stepped up the production numbers which move on and off Marriott’s in-the-round configuration seamlessly thanks to scenic designers Jeffrey D. Kmiec and Milo Blue.

The ensemble soars in the spirited “Yonkers March” and then Jones pulls out all the stops for the crowd-pleasing “Waiters’ Gallop.” Hurd’s lovely, quiet “Ribbons Down My Back” and Goodrich’s touching “It Only Takes A Moment” are particular standout selections in the familiar score. The multi-talented Milford and Walker’s charming turn as Fay make for a perfect match all their own.

But at every turn, all eyes are on the mesmerizing performance of Kettenring—vulnerable and demure in one moment; captivatingly and brilliantly comical in the next—whose interplay play with Girolmo is heartwarming and real. From the elegant rendering of “Before The Parade Passes By,” and a side-splitting dinner sequence, to the capstone title number, Marriott’s “Hello, Dolly!” will leave you with a wonderfully joyous feeling to savor for a long time to come.