Photo courtesy of Paul Hayashi Photography

By Jack Lyons Theatre and Film Critic. Member of American Theatre Critics Association

Everybody’s favorite musical-matchmaker Dolly Gallagher-Levi, returns to the Stage of The Palm Canyon Theatre.  Although Carol Channing, the original star of the musical has been a resident of the Coachella Valley for years, the iconic character of Dolly is currently being performed by Palm Springs star Se Layne. Layne, in addition to her many performing credits, is the Managing and Co-Artistic Director of the Palm Springs-based Palm Canyon Theatre (PCT).

“Hello Dolly!” is one of the most endearing musicals in Broadway history, running from April 1964 to 1969, making it at the time, the third longest-running musical production on Broadway.  Channing played the sassy and clever matchmaker in 2,844 performances, without missing a show. That too is a record.  It’s been revived four times on Broadway over the years with fifty-two actors playing “Dolly”. The last Dolly was aka, ‘The Devine Miss M’, as she was known to her fans in her early years’ but everyone now knows her as the irrepressible Bette Midler, who won the 2017 Tony Award as Best Actress for her “Dolly” performance.

The iconic 1964 musical staged by the late Gower Champion, is written by Jerry Herman (lyrics and music) with a book by Michael Stewart.  Based on the Thornton Wilder’s 1938 farce “The Merchant of Yonkers”, the role of Dolly Gallagher-Levi made an International star out of Carol Channing, who is so associated with the role that her fans just refer to her as Dolly Levi.  Talk about the power and loyalty of fans.

The current musical now on the boards of the PCT, is staged, choreographed, and costumed-designed by talented triple-threat actor Derik Shopinski.  Once again, Shopinski  delivers colorful costumes for all the actor/dancer/singers in the ensemble, saving his glittering, gorgeous costumes for the ladies, with two stunning outfits for his star Se Layne: a radiant white outfit, with a large eye-catching white brim hat and, of course, Dolly’s signature ruby-red gown accompanied  by her huge hat.

The implausible story set in NYC and Yonkers at the turn of the 20th-century centers around Dolly Gallagher-Levi (a beautiful, smiling, strong-willed Se Layne), who never takes ‘No’ for an answer.  Dolly is on a quest to find a match for the miserly, well-known, unmarried half a millionaire Horace Vandergelder. In doing so, Dolly, convinces his niece, nieces’ intended, and two clerks form Vandergelder’s offices to travel to New York City.  The musical is eye candy and a feast for the ears thanks to the appealing songs of composer/lyricist Jerry Herman; staged by director Shopinski.

“Hello Dolly!”, is an over-the-top comedy romp where the audience is way ahead of the characters, but nonetheless, is an enjoyable, energetic, eye-popping visual delight.  It’s a huge cast of twenty-three actors/singers/dancers that perform fifteen wonderful Jerry Herman music and lyric numbers.  Two numbers that have become classics: “Before the Parade Passes By”, and the signature number is known around the world as “Hello Dolly” is performed by the entire company.

Featured actors Allegra Angelo as Minnie Fay, Gaige Griffin as Ambrose Kemper, Anthony Nannini as the Imperious Maitre d’ Rudolf Reisenweber, Donald Kelley as Horace Vandergelder, Ben Reece as  Cornelius Hackl, Leanna Rodgers as Ernestine Money, Herb Schultz as the Judge, Mat Tucker as Barnaby Tucker, and Jamie Leigh Walker as Irene Malloy offer solid support.

In the technical department the creative team led by Shopinski, receives high marks for the expansive set by Designer J.W. Layne, that not only creates space for the dancers, and actor/singers, in both acts, but provides a magnificent staircase that Dolly gracefully descends on her way to the stage floor as the company sings her signature song number “Hello Dolly!” lighting up the entire auditorium.
Lights designed by J.W. Layne, and Kay Van Zandt, along with costume assistants Kathy Ferguson and Virginia Sulick, and Wigs by Mado Nunez, complete the creative team.

“Hello Dolly!” performs at the Palm Canyon Theatre, Palm Springs through February 11, 2018.

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