Hello, Dolly! is a must-see at Riverside Theatre

REVIEW

Wait and kitchen staff welcome Dolly back to the Harmonia Gardens.
Wait and kitchen staff welcome Dolly back to the Harmonia Gardens.

MILT THOMAS

As I sat and enjoyed the Riverside Theatre production of beloved Hello, Dolly! I couldn’t help but think, “It’s only Vero Beach, it’s only Vero Beach,” because the quality of singing, dancing, set design, orchestration, were easily on a par with any major production from New York to Los Angeles. I first saw Dolly in Orlando 50 years ago starring Dorothy Lamour and that, plus Louis Armstrong’s hit recording of the title song have been my standard of comparison for musicals. This production sets a new standard for Riverside.

For everyone over 12 years old, Hello, Dolly! Is about Dolly Gallagher Levi, a turn of the 20th century matchmaking widow with a variety of other talents, each represented by a handy business card.  Her primary motive was to find a man to marry after her husband died. A grumpy, but moderately successful businessman, Horace Vandergelder, hires Dolly to find a bride for himself, but she sets her sights on him for herself. He is interested in a hat shop owner, Irene Molloy, but she is more interested in one of Horace’s clerks. Dolly “fixes Horace up” with a bawdy, generally embarrassing woman, Ernestina Money, and in the show’s set piece scene at the Harmonia Gardens Restaurant, Horace and Ernestina are at one table, the two clerks and their dates at another, trying to avoid Horace. Then Dolly makes a grand entrance as its favorite guest. Mayhem ensues, all but Dolly go to jail, Dolly convinces the judge to set them free and she ends up with her man, Horace.

The original plot of the show derived from an 1835 English play, A Day Well Spent, which was then adapted into a comedy play loosely translated from German to He’ll Have Himself a Good Time. Thornton Wilder then adapted that version into his 1938 play, The Merchant of Yonkers, revised and retitled in 1955 to The Matchmaker. Hello, Dolly! was adapted in 1964 by David Merrick and won a then-record ten Tony Awards.

Michele Ragusa sparkles as Dolly, Adam Heller is sufficiently grumpy as Horace Vandergelder and the supporting cast does as admirable job, especially the over-the-top Kara Mikula as Ernestina Money. She was also understudy for the Dolly role. I can’t say enough about the dancing – it was superb and the athleticism drew ooohs and aahs from the audience numerous times. Being a musician myself, I probably appreciated the orchestra’s key role in this production (and others) more than most. The sets were also great, especially the moving train. Can’t say more about it—you have to see Hello, Dolly! for yourself. This is one show you will def

initely have to see or regret if you don’t.

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