Last week, in my quest to quench my theatre addiction (hey, cut me some slack, I’ve not seen a show since May!), I attended a local theatre production of Hello, Dolly! at the Cumberland County Playhouse. It’s a little bit of a drive for me, but it’s the closest theatre to my home. It also has good quality productions. When you can’t make it to a professional tour, or to New York and Broadway, this is the place to go. At least if you live around here.
The last show I saw at the Playhouse was about a year ago. When I was checking the current shows, I realized that Hello, Dolly! was playing. Something that most of you don’t know is that Hello, Dolly! was the first play that I can ever remember seeing. I was around 7 or 8 years old and my aunt was in a local theatre production in the Atlanta area. My dad and I were visiting my uncle, aunt, and cousins. I’d never even heard of Hello, Dolly! so my aunt made sure that my cousin and I had a chance to sit down and watch the movie version before I went to the show that night.
Sadly, I was so young, I remembered very little about the story. All I remember is watching my beloved aunt every second to see every move she made on stage. She didn’t have a huge part. She was in the ensemble, if I remember correctly. But all I knew is that my aunt was famous. And I thought it was the coolest thing in the world.
The good part about remembering so little about the story was that seeing the production at the Playhouse last week was like seeing a show for the very first time. I remember a few songs and some bare basics about the story, but other than that, it was a nearly a new story to me.
That day I’d had a horrible day at work. I was tired and was slightly regretting buying my ticket to see the show. I really just wanted to go home and go to sleep. But, as I sat there in my seat, my regret and exhaustion began to abate. By the time the house lights dimmed and the first notes of the show began to play, I was grinning from ear to ear.
Quickly, I was lost in turn of the century New York City with a meddling matchmaker and all the insanity came along with her prying ways. Weslie Webster played the role of Dolly Levi with comedy and grace. The real stand-out performer, for me was Mrs. Irene Malloy, played by Nicole Bégué. Ms. Bégué played the role of Mrs. Malloy with just enough cunning to make sure you knew that she was in the market for a husband, but just enough innocence to make her falling in love with Cornelius believable. Her rendition of “Ribbons Down My Back” was truly beautiful.
Cornelius was played by the talented Jason Ross (whom I saw play the role of Edna Turnblad in the Playhouse production of Hairspray), who didn’t fail to give another great comedic performance. Sidekicks to Cornelius and Mrs. Malloy, Minnie Fay and Barnaby were played with over-the-top comedic acting by real life husband and wife team, Lindy and Gregory Pendzick. Thankfully, over-the-top is exactly what these characters needed. Minnie’s childlike demeanor and Barnaby’s youthful ignorance were played well by Mr. and Mrs. Pendzick.
In all things I expected from the Playhouse, the production was fantastic. The singers are talented, the acting was better than anything you’d find anywhere around here, and the staging was quite good. Next up, at the Playhouse is Stephen Sondheim’s A Little Night Music. In a few weeks I’ll make the trek back to the Playhouse to see it. After seeing the show on Broadway just a few months ago, I look forward to seeing a local production of the same piece of work.