Dolly Is Alive and Well

About ten years ago Sweetie and I journeyed to New York and spent a few days walking, eating and generally marvelling at the vibrancy of that great city.  One of the highlights included a trip to a theater whose name escapes me to see Carol Channing in Hello Dolly.  In one of those roles right up there with Marlon’s Stanley Kowalski, Carol entertained us with her vibrancy and wit…even though her frailty required the assistance of several cast members as she wheeled about the stage.

When we see a play at the Ojai Art Center or Ventura’s Rubicon, I am tempted to compare the lead actor with the one who made the role famous.  The poor shlep who was condemned to play Kowlaski for three hours at the Rubicon a few years ago comes to mind.  It was a painful evening for him and for us.

So, with some trepidation, Sweetie, Bert, Yoram and I bought our tickets and plunked ourselves about six rows from the Art Center stage waiting for Hello Dolly to make an entrance.  I’ve often found that some plays and movies are best anticipated with the worst in mind.  Whatever you get that’s worth savoring is all the more appreciated.

As it turned out, my trepidation and bah-humbug expectations were totally without merit.  I found myself smiling and tapping my toes during the entire performance.  I abandoned my usual habit of counting the number of songs left until I could mercifully depart the premises.  I was sorry when it ended.  I wanted more.

Our local physician, Jim Halverson as Cornelius, had a steep hill to climb.  Following in the footsteps of Michael Crawford who played the role in the movie…and then famously as the Phantom of the Opera…was no simple task.  Bravo Jim.  The versatile and always welcome Buddy Wilds, as Horace Vandergelder, was the right blend of curmudgeon and loveable dodo.  And the rest of cast seemed well-suited to their roles as they happily sang and danced their way through the evening with nary a sign of fatigue.

And then there was Dolly.  Oh god, I thought, please don’t let me think about Carol Channing.  Don’t make this painful.  And she didn’t.  From the moment Jaye Hersh walked down the aisle, looking at each of us like she knew us intimately, I knew we were in for a treat.  She was, this evening, Dolly.  She looked like Dolly should look.  She sounded like Dolly should sound.  She made us smile, feel warm and want to sing with her.  When she wasn’t on the stage, we missed her.

As with most community theaters, I find it best to award degree-of-difficulty points to the performances.  After all, these folks are volunteers, the staging normally falls well short of the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, the music is no Philharmonic and the, well, you know.  No special handicap points were required this evening.  We were at the Dorothy Chandler.  And we loved every minute of it.

5 Responses to “Dolly Is Alive and Well”


  1. 1 Judie July 17, 2011 at 2:44 pm

    It is always good when you get more than you anticipate. Unfortunately, we all make comparisons to the people who made certain roles famous when we go to local theatre. It’s not fair, but here in Chgo. there are a lot of local, off Broadway plays and occasionally we are surprised, too. Glad you had a great night!

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  2. 2 Myrna Cambianica July 17, 2011 at 2:45 pm

    thanks fred … we will have a house guest about the first of july so will take him to see Dolly!

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  3. 3 Bobbie & Bob Boschan July 17, 2011 at 6:39 pm

    Wonderful review…we are looking forward to the experience next weekend.

    Bobbie and Bob

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  4. 4 Margo July 17, 2011 at 7:03 pm

    On behalf of the entire cast and crew – thank you Fred and Ila! An appreciative audience makes it all worthwhile!
    Margo (Stage Manager)

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  5. 5 Aryna July 17, 2011 at 7:35 pm

    Thanks for the review Fred. We will be sure to make it. Musicals are my favorite thing!
    Aryna

    Like


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