Hello again to big, brassy, bold ‘Dolly’

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Cast members from “Hello, Dolly”. Photo: Michael Moore

IT’S bold and brassy, just like its main character, and now Queanbeyan Players are staging the Jerry Herman musical “Hello, Dolly!” at The Q.

The last time it was seen in these parts was in 2005 when Bronwyn Sullivan played the lead role, Dolly Levi, for Canberra Philharmonic, and no wonder – it’s huge. The coming production has a cast of 47 and calls to mind stories that the movie starring Barbra Streisand cost a whopping $US25 million and only made $US26 million. It’s not on that scale, of course.

Director Michael Moore, who joined the company in 2017 to play Emile De Becque in “South Pacific”, stresses that with tight wing space at The Q, they’ve had to be strategic in creating the illusion of the three main settings in upstate Yonkers and downtown New York.

Tony Falla, as Horace Vandergelder, and Janelle McMenamin as Dolly Levi in “Hello, Dolly”. Photo: Michael Moore

The action takes place in the 1890s on the cusp of the 20th century, “a time-specific setting, so we stayed with that, no updating,” he says.

Janelle McMenamin gets to play the interfering matchmaker and general busybody, Dolly Levi, who says of herself: “Some people sew…I meddle!”

As her opposite number, the cantankerous Yonkers “half-a-millionaire” Horace Vandergelder, is Canberra veteran actor Tony Falla, apparently cast against type.

“Even though he is the antagonist, Horace wants to get the girl, so he has to be quite nice,” Moore says.

“Tony didn’t think he’d be right for the role, but he’s perfect, he’s captured Horace’s grumpiness well, sometimes a bit too well.”

These are both great parts for maturing actors and especially for McMenamin as the domineering Dolly, who appears in almost every scene.

But to Moore, one of the great things about the musical is that there are also plenty of cameo parts.

“There are eight principals and a decent number of other small roles like Rudolph the waiter and Ernestina the heiress,” he says.

“It’s a very human piece, Dolly’s a kind of a jack of all trades but mostly into matchmaking, so I tell the young cast that she’s just like an online dating agency… but she’s decided to enter the human world again and has her eyes on Horace. It’s a fun piece.”

Apart from Horace, who is about 60 and Dolly, between 45 and 55, there are younger roles such as Irene, played by Demi Smith, and Cornelius, played by Will Collett, aged about 30. As well, there are much younger people such as Maddy Calder playing Ermengarde, Emily Pogson playing Minnie and Maxwell Macmillan playing Barnaby.

“They’re very, very talented, it’s good for the youngsters to help cut their teeth,” Moore says.

The music, like Dolly, is nothing if not brassy and musical director Jenna Hinton has assembled a massive 24-piece orchestra.

“Brass is great for the big numbers like ‘Before The Parade Passes By’ and ‘Hello, Dolly!’,” Moore says, “but we still need violins for things like ‘Ribbons Down My Back’ or ‘It Only Takes A Moment.’

“That’s typical of Jerry Herman, who composed for brass and strings,” Moore says, “it’s fabulous.”

 

“Hello, Dolly!”, The Q, Queanbeyan, May 30-June 9. Book at  theq.net.au or 6285 6290.

 

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