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Hello, Dolly!, Riverside High School, Leesburg, Virginia, April 29, 2018

Aubrey Winger

Loudoun Valley High School


Give her an old trombone! Give her an old baton! Dolly Levi has paraded back into town, ready to take New York City by storm. In their recent production of "Hello, Dolly!", Riverside High School captured the opulence of this beloved golden age musical.


"Hello, Dolly!" has secured its place in musical theatre history with four Broadway revivals and fourteen Tony Awards over the last fifty-four years. The iconic storyline was originally derived from the farce, "The Matchmaker" written by Thornton Wilder in 1954, a rewritten version of his earlier play, "The Merchant of Yonkers".


At the turn of the century, all of New York City is abuzz because socialite Dolly Levi has returned to orchestrate a match for Horace Vandergelder, a rich but crotchety widower. However, it soon becomes clear the she is determined to have this "half-a-millionaire" for herself. In the process of winning him over, she uses her consulting skills to pair up three other couples, resulting in a happy ending for all.


Whether she was giving dance lessons, acting as a legal consultant, or matchmaking, Dolly Levi (Sarah Katherine Lawless) always had something up her sleeve. Lawless flawlessly combined the elegance of an older woman with the fast-talking nature of a certified meddler. Her subtle New York accent and commanding voice developed her character without detracting from her diction. Lawless contrasted Dolly's self-assured exterior with raw emotion in her wistful monologues to her late husband Ephraim. Her vocals had the polish and the effortlessness of a Golden Age actress, making every solo simply sensational.


As Horace Vandergelder, Evan Gardner's mature vocal performance shone through in his musical numbers while his character voice gave him the appearance of a grumpy old coot. His expectations for Ernestina Money (Taylor Body), Dolly's personal recommendation as a possible wife, were crushed when her vulgar nature came to light, revealing Vandergelder's inner anxieties about finding the perfect wife. As Miss Money, Body delivered every one of her lines with zeal, clamoring to be allowed to perform her favorite dance number, the "hootchy kootchy".


Cornelius Hackl (Jonathan Darnell) and Barnaby Tucker (Noah Hamade), Vandergelder's two employees, formed a cohesive unit, working perfectly together during their wild New York adventure. Filled with various mishaps, synchronized dance moves, and chocolate covered peanuts (with the shells on), this duo's journey to finding love was truly a comical one.


Irene Malloy's (Lindsey McDonald) desire to impress the eligible men of the city was demonstrated in her lovely solo number "Ribbons Down My Back." Ballet dancer Alexandra Lopez twirled across the stage, showcasing her pointe training and incredible skill in numerous featured sequences.


The versatility of the set allowed the crew to change the setting of scenes without having to move massive pieces. The stockroom of Vandergelder's store was cleverly designed and executed, allowing for the clerks to climb in and out of it, seemingly descending into a cellar below.


"It only takes a moment" to fall in love with Riverside High School's feel-good rendition of this classic American musical. The dedication of the cast, combined with a stand-out performance from the titular role, made this production of Hello, Dolly! one to remember.

Karen Zipor

Stone Bridge High School


Call on Dolly for all your meddling and matchmaking needs! The stage immediately lit up when Dolly Levi, a strong-willed woman of many skills, made a grand entrance in a carriage donning her classic red gown. Dolly Levi arrived, and she's back where she belongs: onstage in Riverside High School's production of "Hello, Dolly!".


The book of "Hello, Dolly!" is based on Thornton Wilder's 1955 comedic play, "The Matchmaker". The musical adaptation, with music and lyrics by Jerry Herman and book by Michael Stewart, premiered on Broadway in 1964. The show became a rousing success, winning the Tony Award for Best Musical and Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Musical for the original Dolly Levi, Carol Channing. The titular role has since then been played by a multitude of Hollywood stars and Broadway legends, including Barbara Streisand, Bette Midler, and Bernadette Peters. Recently, the 2017 Broadway revival won the Tony Award for Best Revival of a Musical.


The plot centers around Dolly Levi (Sarah Katherine Lawless), a widowed woman who has her mind set on marrying Horace Vandergelder (Evan Gardner), the owner of a Hay & Feed store and a 'half-a-millionaire' looking for love. Lawless met the standards set by the renowned women who have previously played Dolly. With effortless charisma and a charming New York accent, Lawless carried the show in the palm of her hand. She interacted with the audience, confessing her grief over her dear departed husband and pleading for a sign to marry Horace. Lawless also wasn't afraid to stall the show for a meal, calmly finishing her food before stepping into the courtroom.


There were many talented supporting actors and actresses among the cast. The employees of Horace's store, Cornelius (Jonathan Darnell) and Barnaby (Noah Hamade), were delightful to watch, providing clockwork comedic timing and dancing duets, as they also searched for love in New York City. The manager of the hat shop, Irene Malloy (Lindsey McDonald), and her assistant, Minnie Fay (Brigid Randolph), joined in on Dolly's matchmaking antics, performing a hilarious number with her called "Motherhood March", and eventually becoming love interests to Cornelius and Barnaby.


The ensemble had spectacular dance numbers with complex tap combinations and swing dance stunts. Alexandra Lopez awed the audience with her immaculate arabesques and fouettés en pointe. One of the choreography's most notable moments was when the entire cast mimicked the motion of a moving train with spinning parasols as the wheels.


All the tech work was realistic and matched the period of 1900's America. The costumes consisted of many colorful gowns, but Dolly's dress from Act Two was the most memorable: coated in red glitter and fitting her like a glove. The set had two levels and a magnificent staircase for Dolly to make her striking entrance at the Harmonia Gardens Restaurant. Despite the occasional sound issue, the energy and dedication of the cast couldn't be stopped.


Overall, Riverside High School put together a show that will capture the heart of any Broadway enthusiast. Like Dolly Levi, this cast is 'looking swell', and can tell they're still 'glowing and going strong' with this dazzling tribute to the Golden Era of Broadway.


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