Say hello to one of Broadway's longest-running and best-loved musicals, being staged now at the SCERA Center for the Arts. "Hello, Dolly!" greets audiences Friday night and will run through May 11, ending the SCERA's indoor theater season.
"Hello, Dolly!," a Tony Award-winning musical that premiered in 1964 and ran for more than 2,800 performances on Broadway, takes place in turn-of-the-20th century New York. It introduces Dolly Levi, a likable but meddlesome widow-turned-matchmaker who has plans for pairing up lovelorn couples while snagging a husband of her own.
"It's the story of a woman who very cleverly gets the man she wants," said Jerry Elison, director of the musical. "She actually tricks him into falling in love with her. It's a clever story and the script is well put together."
Elison has been directing big stage productions at the SCERA for nearly 30 years, and he said the cast and crew that make up "Hello, Dolly!"-- which has three large music and dance numbers in the first act alone -- is one of the best he's worked with. "I've had extremely capable, wonderful help," he said. "And when you're fortunate enough to get a cast like I've got with this one, the whole experience is just a real delight."
In the role of Dolly is Melissa Swingle, a 25-year-old Draper resident and music teacher. Playing opposite her is Eric Johnson as Horace Vandergelder, the well-heeled but cantankerous half-millionaire from Yonkers whom Dolly has set her cap for. The role of Dolly was first immortalized by Carol Channing on stage and, later, Barbra Streisand in the 1969 film. Putting aside those two iconic portrayals, Elison said Swingle brings her own quick-witted interpretation to the role.
"It's an interesting portrayal," Elison said. "It's her own portrayal. She's not mimicking anybody or trying to be like anybody else. She has a different understanding of the role, and I like what she does with it."
Swingle said in creating her character she imagined Dolly as a confident, mischievous and fun woman who lost touch with her personality with the death of her first husband. "Throughout the play she 'rejoins the human race' and rediscovers those wonderful things about herself," said Swingle. "That's how I've made Dolly mine -- by allowing confidence, mischief and wonder to bloom."
The plot of "Hello, Dolly!" is rooted in the 1835 play "A Day Well Spent." It was later adapted for stage by Thornton Wilder and renamed "The Matchmaker." The lyrics and music for the musical were written by Jerry Herman, with the book by Michael Stewart, and includes recognizable numbers like the title song, "Hello, Dolly!" and "Before the Parade Passes By."
"This music is so fun and so well written," Swingle said. "There's a perfect mix between bright, spirited songs and moments of solemn musical reflection. The full combination is uplifting. You can't help but have a light, happy heart at the end of the show."