Closing out its 48th season, CMPAC does manage to put on a dazzling production of Hello Dolly, albeit a few hiccups, which I will attribute to opening night jitters.
Based on Thornton Wilder‘s play, The Matchmaker, which in turn was based on two plays from the 1800’s (John Oxenford‘s A Day Well Spent  and Johann Nestroy‘s Einen Jux will er sich machen ) tells the story of matchmaker Dolly Gallagher-Levi. The show follows meddler, opportunist Dolly as she travels to Yonkers to find matches for the “half-a-millionaire” Horace Vandergelder, artist Ambrose Kemper, Vandergelder’s employees, a hat maker, and, most importantly, herself.
Carol Channing, Ethel Merman, Pearl Bailey, Bette Midler and Donna Murphy, just to name a few, have all graced the stage as Dolly. Each one of them exuded Dolly’s most important trait in order to have a successful performance…confidence. Confidence is key. Stepping into the role of Dolly for this production is Laurie Lamar-Roundsman, who I felt had a lack of confidence at times. There were moments where Ms. Lamar-Roundsman was strong and truly shined. She demonstrated her great acting ability, particularly when she delivered Dolly’s moving monologues to her deceased husband Ephraim.
She also truly dazzled during the performance of the title song, a number that will always manage to bring a smile to every audience. I wish she would have just spread the confidence displayed in those moments throughout the rest of her performance. I found she stumbled at times delivering Dolly’s fast paced dialogue. She also missed some of her musical cues, as did other cast members.
There is also a moment in Act II, where Ms. Lamar-Roundsman gets the opportunity to improv with a meal she is eating, while the cast is waiting for her defense at a trial. It started out cute and funny and did have the audience giggling, but it went on a little too long resulting in a moment of awkward silence. That could be cut down a little bit. Some musical performances also came off as awkward (i.e. I Put My Hand in There and Before the Parade Passes By.)
These are assertive, commanding musical numbers. When you take on a role like Dolly, you have to have confidence and command the stage in every scene. It’s the only way to pull off her ruse. I have a feeling these hiccups were a result of opening night jitters, which is only natural, and will be fixed as the performances progress.
Marc Strauss does a formidable job as Horace Vandergelder. His strong voice and stage presence made “It Takes a Woman”, a musical number usually forgotten, one of the most memorable numbers from Act 1. Richie Castronova, Courtney O’Shea and Sarah Minto all have star-making qualities.
Mr. Castronova is a fantastic dancer. His moves are so smooth and graceful, at times I thought he was flying. He also has great comedic timing, as does Ms. Minto and Ms. O’Shea. One moment that truly left me awe-struck came from Ms. O’Shea as Ermengarde, Vandergelder’s niece. During Act II, while in front of a judge, she lets out a comical wail. She is prompted to repeat the wail and she does a pitch-perfect exact duplicate of it. I originally thought it was a recording; I was highly impressed.
The ensemble is phenomenal. They all have very strong voices and are the driving force behind this production. As was the 18-piece live orchestra directed by Kevin Merkel; it’s so refreshing to hear a live orchestra in a theater as opposed to a recording. Matthew Surico directed a beautiful production.
The set is breathtaking. Kudos to the entire scenic design team including: John Mazzarella (Production Coordinator, Scenic Painter & Assistant Carpenter), Mark Lucas & Leia Papayannakos (Scenic Painters), Chad Hulse (Production Carpenter) and Brandon Noble (Assistant Carpenter). Their painted backdrop of 19th century New York architecture is Broadway caliber and I could see it hanging in an art museum one day.
Some transitions though do need work as there were times where set pieces were stuck and weren’t able to clear the stage smoothly. The true star of this production is costume designer Ronald R. Green III. He truly captured the heart and soul of the Gilded Age.
This production’s performance of “Put on Your Sunday Clothes” was the most memorable moment for me this theater season so far. That is mainly due to the talent that is Mr. Green, who took on the daunting task of dressing and pairing the entire company in every shade of color possible. Seeing each couple emerge on stage during this performance was like seeing a rainbow unfurl in front of your very eyes; it was beautiful. It was paired well with Kevin Burns‘s excellent choreography and once again the strong vocals of the amazing ensemble.
Overall, Hello Dolly accomplishes its goal by dazzling and entertaining the audience notwithstanding the hiccups. The entire audience left the theater saying “That was great!” CMPAC always puts on amazing productions and you can see this one at the Noel S. Ruiz Theater through May 22.
How To Get Tickets
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Their upcoming Summer/Fall 2022 Season will feature: Bye Bye Birdie, Cabaret, Matilda the Musical and The Wizard of Oz. You can purchase tickets for the upcoming season here: