Theatre Review: “Hello, Dolly!” at Beef and Boards Dinner Theatre

On March 27, 2010, a friend met me at the Beef and Boards Dinner Theatre on the northwest side of Indianapolis to see “Hello, Dolly!” – a funny, Tony Award-winning musical about a matchmaker in Yonkers, New York, around the beginning of the last century.

We had a lovely time.

This was my first experience seeing a professional staged production of “Hello, Dolly!” Barbra Streisand was delicious in the movie version that I saw several years ago and I enjoyed an all-volunteer, community theatre production last year while I was an Encore Association judge.  In both of those experiences, the title character, Dolly Levi, was a funny busy-body who a) knew how to have a good time and b) missed being able to afford good times as a widow.  I felt sympathy for her, but not necessarily empathy.

I came away from the Beef and Boards production feeling empathy and affection for Dolly Levi.  Actress Iris Lieberman gives her a warm humanity that is very appealing.  Also, Iris is physically tiny but she gives Dolly a big, likable presence.  I didn’t know that Iris Lieberman had won a Jefferson Award, presented to outstanding artists each year in Chicago, for her role in “Robert & Elizabeth at the Forum Theatre until I read today the “Fun Facts” sheet provided by Patricia Rettig in my press kit.  During the B&B show I just scrawled “I like Dolly!” in my notebook.

Destination Actors (A Slight Digression, Borrowed from a Colleague)

It has been a couple weeks since I saw the Beef and Boards show.  In the meantime, several other people have written about it, including Elizabeth J. Musgrave , who writes for the “Gotta Go” column in the West Side Community News in Indianapolis and the West Indianapolis Community News.  I didn’t know about her “Gotta Go” blog (which also includes copies of the newspaper pieces plus some pieces on a wide variety of topics that she writes just for her blog) until Patricia Rettig tweeted a link to it one day.  I added Elizabeth’s blog to my blog roll here on Indy Theatre Habit and I look forward to reading it regularly.

Anyway, in her review of B&B’s “Hello, Dolly!” Elizabeth says that Mark Goetzinger – the man who plays Dolly’s target, Horace Vandergelder – is a “destination actor” for her: when he is in a show, she goes out of her way to see it.

I love that idea!

I don’t know if I truly have destination actors…oh, who am I kidding?  Of course, I do.  There are always three or more shows that intrigue me in the Indianapolis area for every one evening that I have free (and I am not exaggerating!) so, yes, sometimes it is the fact that I love a particular actor’s (or director’s or playwright’s) work that decides for me which show I will spend my time on, other things being equal.

Most of the time, though, I sign up to see the show first, and only later think, “Oh, good!  So-and-so is in this!”

Mark Goetzinger is definitely on my “oh, good!” list.  In “Hello, Dolly!” he portrays the “rich, friendless, and mean” – but worth marrying – Horace Vandergelder with admirable bluster and wit.  I can see why Dolly wants to spend the rest of her life with him, in spite of his curmudgeonliness.

Another person on my “oh, good!” list is actress Erin Cohenour.  I have admired her work in several community theatre shows over the past three years so I was delighted to learn that she is making her Beef and Boards debut in this show.   

Before I saw the show, I had heard through the grapevine that she was very funny in this piece, so I was a little surprised that all through Act One she “only” sings and dances smoothly as a member of the chorus. 

At intermission, director Eddie Curry came by to say “hi.”  He seemed a little down and said that he was getting over a cold.  I said, making conversation and maybe hoping to put in a good word for one of my favorites, “Erin Cohenour seems to be doing a good job…?”

His face lit up then, his body straightened, and his cold was gone.  “Oh, Hope,” he grinned.  “Wait ‘til you see her in Act Two.  She is hilarious.  Huh-lair-ree-US!”

And she was.  In Act Two, Erin plays “Ernestina Money,” one of the women that Dolly fixes Horace up with so that he will see what a good catch Dolly is in contrast.  Ernestina is a hoot.  I am laughing again, remembering.

Lots of “Oh, good!”s

As a matter of fact, I thought, “Oh, good!” about every member of the cast, including the other two B&B newcomers, before the night was through. 

Dolly is trying to get Horace to ask her to marry him, but in the meantime she is also working to match his ambitious head clerk, Cornelius Hack (David Schmittou), and innocent assistant clerk, Barnaby Tucker (Alex Yacovelli), with beautiful, frustrated milliner Irene Molloy (Tori Hicks) and her eager assistant, Minnie Fay (Jana Lugar), respectively.  They are all endearing; I especially loved their sprightly-funny rendition of the “Elegance” song.  Tori Hicks perfectly conveyed the complex combination of yearning, mourning, and cheerfulness in “Ribbons Down My Back.”  Her “It Only Takes a Moment” duet with David Schmittou is very pretty, very romantic.

By the way, my program says that David Schmittou was nominated for the Kevin Kline Award for his lead role in the Stages St. Louis production of “The Drowsy Chaperone.”  The “Fun Facts” sheet in my press kit says that he WON the award on March 22.   Congratulations, David!  (The Kevin Kline Awards honor excellence in St. Louis professional theatre.)

Dolly’s other clients include Horace’s bratty niece, Ermengarde (Cara Noel Antosca), and the handsome artist she wants to marry (but of whom her uncle does not approve): Ambrose Kemper (Kenny Shepard.)  Sally Mitchell gracefully balances out the ladies’ half of the cast as Ms. Rose.

John Vessels is Rudolph, the gruff head waiter at the Harmonia Gardens, a swanky restaurant that Dolly loves.  Rudy has high standards for his team of waiters and they live up to them.  Tyler Braun, Adam Chandler, Danny Kingston, and Jarvis B. Manning, Jr. maintain an amazing level of energy and sheer athleticism during the demanding “waiter’s dance,” choreographed by Ron Morgan.  (Original production directed and choreographed by Gower Champion.  I loved the mix of waltz-style dancing, clockwork-like dancing, and leap-filled dancing in the show.)

The Razzle-Dazzle

Brian Horton’s costumes for this piece are gorgeous.  They include floor-sweeping skirts with bustles, generously trimmed hats, delicate parasols, dapper vests, and many other visual pleasures.  Daniel Benslay designed the elaborate wigs.  Another “Fun Fact”: the costumes “include 17 dresses for the women, 29 outfits for the men, and approximately 44 hats, 25 pairs of gloves and six parasols.”

Michael Layton’s set design uses the Beef and Board stage turn table to good effect as usual but also cleverly incorporates extra levels through the use of an opening in a mini, rounded walkway close to the audience.  Everyone in the audience can easily see Dolly and the Judge (John Vessels), even though the courtroom is crowded with arrested people, for example.  In another part of the set, the “stairs” leading down to the cellar of the feed store make for a laugh-out-loud sight gag as “climbed” by Cornelius and Barnaby.

My friend commented that the spot lights were too bright, even harsh, in some of the numbers.  I confess that I hadn’t noticed the lights on the main stage one way or the other.  I did enjoy the special, old-timey-looking, decorative lights hanging over the aisle that Dolly comes down during the grand “Hello, Dolly!” number at the Harmonia Gardens.  (Lighting design by Ryan Koharchik.)

Daniel Hesselbrock’s sound design worked well, as usual, and the orchestra, conducted by music director Terry Woods, sounded good as usual.  At one point I turned to my friend and whispered, “Was that an OBOE?!” I was surprised because I had already heard several other instruments and there didn’t appear to be very much room up there in the orchestra loft.  Well, whatever it was, it sounded rich and wonderful.  I also especially loved the liquid-y, chimes-y accompaniment to the “Ribbons Down My Back” number.  Members of the orchestra include Terry Woods on keyboard, Neil Broeker on woodwinds, David Coleson on trumpet, Tim Kelly on percussion, and Kristy Templet on keyboard.

The stage manager is Ed Stockman.  Bill Mollencupp is the technical director.  Props (including Dolly’s many business cards? I think of them whenever I hand someone my blog card!) are by assistant director Elizabeth Stark.

The Food, the Service, and the Facilities

Sabrina was our server and took good care of us.  My friend and I both swooned over the baked cod on Chef Odell Ward’s buffet and over our desserts at intermission (carrot cake for him, limited-time-only turtle cheesecake for me.)

And finally, ‘sorry if this is too much information, but it delighted me: if you are female, check out the elegant new frosted-glass raised sinks in the ladies’ room!

Box Office

“Hello, Dolly!” continues at the Beef and Boards Dinner Theatre through Sunday, May 2.  To make a reservation, please visit www.beefandboards.com or call the box office at 317-872-9664.  Also remember that B&B’s “Alladin, Jr.” show for kids has been extended.  Please see the excerpt from that press release, below.

The book for “Hello, Dolly!” is by Michael Stewart, with music and lyrics by Jerry Herman.  It is based on the play “The Matchmaker” by Thornton Wilder.  Another “Fun Fact” – Thornton Wilder spent two years in law school at our own Purdue University.  “Hello, Dolly!” was produced for the Broadway Stage by David Merrick and Champion-Five, Inc.

‘See you at the theatres!

Hope Baugh – www.IndyTheatreHabit.com

Follow @IndyTheatre on Twitter.com, too.

(All photos in this post are by Julie Curry.  Roll your mouse over each photo to see the actors’ names.)

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Run of Live Theatre for Kids production extended through April 24

            INDIANAPOLIS – Disney’s high-flying adventure won’t be grounded in March after all, as Beef & Boards Dinner Theatre’s Pyramid Players have extended the run of Aladdin Jr. The stage adaptation of the popular Disney movie, which opened the 2010 Live Theatre For Kids series, is now on stage through April 24.

            Journey to Agrabah, the City of Enchantment, where every beggar has a story and every camel has a tail. Discover magic lamps and flying carpets, and fall in love with Aladdin and Princess Jasmine. Together, and with the help of the Genie, they take on the evil Grand Vizier Jafar in this adventure that will have children’s spirits soaring with excitement.

            Aladdin Jr. also features the film’s Academy award-winning score with songs including “A Whole New World” and “Friend Like Me.”

            Originally scheduled to close March 20, this exciting adventure has had seven performances added April 10 through April 24 at Beef & Boards Dinner Theatre. The audience has the opportunity to meet the cast of Disney’s Aladdin Jr.  after each show for pictures and autographs.

Pyramid Players productions are one hour in length and presented without intermission. Performances are for all ages, but offered particularly for children in preschool through sixth grade. All tickets are $12.50 and include a snack.

Performances take place at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. on Saturdays, with an additional 10 a.m. show on Fridays, April 23

For reservations, contact the box office at 317.872.9664. Box office hours are 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday, and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Mondays.

For more information or show schedule, visit the theatre’s web site, www.beefandboards.com.

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The librarian in me also wants to draw your attention to an interesting background article about the Beef and Boards Dinner Theatre that Dana Hunsinger wrote for the Indianapolis Star.  Its headline was “Beef and Boards Continues Good Run: Dinner Theatre Thrives as Others Across US Fail.”  It was posted on www.indystar.com on March 29, 2010.  In case you missed it, here is a direct link.

2 thoughts on “Theatre Review: “Hello, Dolly!” at Beef and Boards Dinner Theatre”

  1. Hello Hope,

    I am delighted you read my review on B&B’s Hello Dolly and agreed with my “Destination Actor” theory. I have other actors who fit into that category, also.

    Thank you very much for gottago.us on your blog roll. I enjoy reading your reviews and look forward to the full review on A Chorus Line.

    Best wishes,
    Elizabeth J. Musgrave

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