Hello, Dolly delights audiences in Schweinfurth Theater


Photo by Emily Sinnett

Dolly Levi, played by Addison Mays, ’19, fills the theatre with song as she delivers “Hello, Dolly,” marking Dolly’s return to 14th street. Mays took on the role as Dolly and performed three shows.

Jamey VanZandt, Advisor

Walter Kerr, writing in the New York Herald Tribune in 1964, described Hello, Dolly as “… a musical comedy dream.”  Kerr added “Don’t bother holding on to your hats … you’d only be throwing them in the air anyway,” in a review of the new stage production in its debut season.

Well, not many who arrived to enjoy MV’s 2019 Operetta wore hats of any kind, but all those who watched the production on March 7, 8, or 9 in Schweinfurth Theater could have easily thrown them afterward.

Under the skillful direction of Mrs. Mary Beth Mezo and with Mr. Rolland Mays on board as orchestra conductor for his 30th show, Hello, Dolly featured scene after scene of bright, lavish sets and fanciful, colorful costumes.  Actors delivered Hello, Dolly’s sparkling, witty lines and driving, quick-stepping musical numbers with an enthusiasm and preciseness rare for a high school production.

Based on “The Matchmaker” by Thornton Wilder, Hello, Dolly was originally produced by David Merrick in 1964, and starred Carol Channing as Dolly.  The book was written by Michael Stewart, and Jerry Herman composed the music and lyrics.  Since 2018, Hello, Dolly has been a smash hit in its revival run, and legendary greats Bernadette Peters, Bette Midler, and Betty Buckley have starred as Dolly in the lead role.

Other legends who have starred as Dolly include Barbra Streisand, Ethel Merman, Mary Martin, and Pearl Bailey.

From the liner notes of the Original Broadway Cast Recording of Hello, Dolly, the musical begins on a summer morning in the year 1898. In the MV version of the play, Addison Mays, ’19, is featured in the lead role as Dolly Levi, born Gallagher, as the jack-of-all-trades widow of Ephraim Levi, who makes her way to Yonkers, New York to arrange the second marriage of Mr. Horace Vandergelder, the well-known half-a-millionaire, and another lead role played by Seth Launay, ’19.

Later, in Yonkers, the audience meets Vandergelder, his long-suffering clerks, Cornelius Hackl, played by Cullen Asbery, ’20, and Barnaby Tucker, played by Cameron Steele, ’19, and his weeping niece Ermengarde, played by Bailey Donoho, ’21.  Vandergelder, though believing that remarrying is a foolish act, has decided to do just that very thing.

Meanwhile, Dolly arrives in Yonkers and proceeds to clear the field of all rivals, including millineress Mrs. Irene Molloy, a young widow played by Stevie Koontz, ’20, and her assistant, Minnie Fay, played by Lauren Berry, ’22.  Dolly decides to introduce Vandergelder to a great catch – an heiress named Ernestina Money, played by Haleigh Harpole, ‘19 – later that afternoon at the 14th Street Association Parade, an event in which Vandergelder plans to march.  Cornelius and Barnaby decide that they, too, will go into New York to have themselves an adventure.  Coincidentally, Cornelius and Barnaby accidentally meet Mrs. Molloy and Minnie Fay as they take refuge in the hat shop, attempting to hide from Vandergelder once they arrive in New York.

Dolly manages to introduce and convince Cornelius and Barnaby to ask Mrs. Molly and Minnie Fay to dinner at the lavish Harmonia Gardens restaurant, despite Cornelius having less than three dollars in his purse.

From here, Hello, Dolly takes the audience through a magnificent slow-motion number with “Before the Parade Passes By,” in which the 14th Street Association Parade is staged.

Later that evening, in a glittering red and ivory dress, Dolly makes her return to the Harmonia Gardens after time away since the death of her husband Ephraim, and the show-stopping number “Hello, Dolly” signals Dolly’s grand re-entry into life.  As Rudolph, played by Hunter Gray, ’20, oversees the action, in excellent tap and dance routines choreographed by Anna Lamczyk,’20, the waiters and cooks twirl, spin, and leap their way through a fantastic welcome home for Dolly.

The show includes a delightful courtroom scene in which Cornelius, the court audience, and Irene Molloy sing “It Only Takes a Moment.”  Other wonderful musical numbers included “Elegance,” where Cornelius and Barnaby try to convince Mrs. Molloy and Minnie that the truly classy way to get around is by walking, and Dolly’s retort to Vandergelder’s rejection of her in “So Long, Dearie.”  Other memorable numbers included “Put on Your Sunday Clothes,” Dancing,” and “Ribbons Down My Back.”

Ms. Raquel Maxey served as Assistant Director of this year’s production, while Ms. Chelci Wilson, MV choral director, and a former Dolly herself, directed the efforts of the cast with the musical numbers.  Mrs. Dee Ann Endsley served once again as costumer, and Mr. Frank Winchester served as Producer.

Many other MV students were involved in the 2019 Operetta, from townspeople and dancers, to stage crew to set construction and decoration, as well as sound and tech.  Members of MV Operations staff were also instrumental in the design and construction of the many detailed sets that were instrumental to sharing the story of Hello, Dolly.

Truly, MV’s theater program is a well-designed team effort, and once again, the opportunities afforded by this year’s production created memories for MV students that will last a lifetime and provided the Mount Vernon community with an outstanding theater experience.  Hello, Dolly was a delight to watch and enjoy.

Hello, Dolly marked the 77th Operetta to be staged at MV, and the first time for this musical.  Hello, Dolly is the third Operetta to be staged in the new MVTHS, following Damn Yankees in 2017 and Cinderella in 2018.