In the Suburbs: ‘Hello, Dolly’ lights up Fairfield Ludlowe stage
Those lights of 14th Street and the Harmonia Gardens in old Manhattan were ablaze recently as Dolly Levi, played beautifully by Fairfield Ludlowe High School senior Julia Vitale, walked down the restaurant’s grand staircase, making her triumphant return. “Hello Dolly” was another wonderful hit for the Fairfield Ludlowe High School Drama Club and its amazing Artistic Director, Frances Rose Kondziela.
And for a big surprise during the Dolly number and in other Harmonia Gardens vignettes, one of the excited waiters, greeting Dolly bore a strong resemblance to Ludlowe’s Head Master Greg Hatzis, clearly a true actor at heart. It was truly a wonderful theater moment.
I never get tired of “Hello Dolly,” a show that won 10 Tony awards. “This musical is like a box of delicious chocolates, filled with delightful, sweet moments of joy,” said Ms. K. “Dolly Levi only wants to make the world a better happier place for everyone.” And in today’s chaotic, unpredictable world, “Hello Dolly” is what the world needs now and always.”
Dolly, AKA matchmaker, lawyer, business woman — the list goes on — always has a business card for every occasion and crisis. The cards are her signature trademark and only endear us more to her character.
As always, this production was memorable because of its creative sets — kudos to Drama Club carpenters. In particular, those all-important steps of the Harmonia Gardens were a touch of creative genius. For set designers, this show is challenging because there is more than one location — Horace Vandergelder’s feed shop in Yonkers, New York; Irene Molloy’s millinery shop in Manhattan and, of course, the restaurant.
While the “Hello Dolly” company involved a huge number of students, many of whom were seniors doing their last show, I wanted to recognize some additional standout performers besides Julia Vitale. As always, Ms. K did an incredible job of finding the perfect students for particular roles.
Francis Ohe, for instance, was the ideal, gruff Vandergelder, destined to succumb to the wiles and charms of Dolly Levi and make her his wife. He was tough when he needed to be and sincere and tender at the end when he proclaimed, “Wonderful Woman” as he sang the memorable reprise of “Hello Dolly.”
Slightly goofy and lovable Barnaby Tucker and Cornelius Hackl, Horace’ employees, who escape to New York for one day of adventure and to kiss a girl, were wonderfully portrayed by Jackson Shostak and Kai Marrelli. Their singing was terrific and I was particularly impressed by Kai’s tribute to his parents for all their support at the end of the show.
Emerson Raymond as Irene Molloy had the voice of an angel and a personality to match. As powerful as Julia was in Dolly’s role, Emerson was equally strong as Irene. She has a great future if she continues to do theater.
Minnie Fay, Irene’s assistant, captured the audience with her slightly bumbling influence and sincerity. She was deftly played by Amanda Miller.
And the dancers and chorus were absolutely amazing, whether moving through the streets of New York or in the restaurant or courthouse. Their efforts were as close to Broadway as one can get in an “on the road performance.”
The orchestra, of course, was terrific and they absolutely brought out the best in all the individual performers and chorus. I was particularly impressed with how well they showcased Dolly in her haunting and eventually uplifting rendition of “Before the Parade Passes By,” another of the signature numbers in the show. The orchestra truly brought out Julia Vitale’s depth and vocal dimension in that song and I think the audience truly felt how much Dolly wanted to get back into the circles she had been missing since she lost her husband Emphram Levi.
“Hello Dolly” was definitely one of my all-time favorites among all the shows I’ve seen at Roger Ludlowe and was certainly a tribute to the late Carol Channing, the original Dolly, who passed away only recently at 97. I am so glad I had the opportunity to see it.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that the high level of this performance of “Hello Dolly,” like all Ms. K’s theater work, makes me so appreciative of what all our Fairfield high Schools, like Fairfield Ludlowe, Fairfield Warde, Fairfield Prep and Notre Dame, along with our middle schools are doing with student talent. I have seen incredible productions at all levels and experienced a great performance of Urinetown from Fairfield Prep just this week.
Steven Gaynes is a Fairfield writer, and his “In the Suburbs” appears each Friday. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org