Mister Eclectic (howeird) wrote,
Mister Eclectic

Goodbye, Dolly

Caught the last Thursday night show of Hello Dolly in Saratoga, the newly-renamed South Bay Musical Theater. The show is worth seeing just for the sets, costumes and orchestra. Let me dwell on the good things first. The costumes include lots of ornate 1890's dresses, uniforms, parade costumes, high class restaurant waiter outfits, men's promenade suits, period hats and wigs done in the same fashion. This is for 37 ensemble members and 11 leads. I lost count of the costume changes, most of which were in Act I, but I'll guess at least five. Workmanship on all the period pieces looked top notch, with a little less time spent on the marching band/drill team outfits. But just a spectacular display of costumes for any three productions. I think they could have done without the gorilla costume, though.

The backdrops were full arch-to-floor flys with professional quality street scenes panted on them. I counted four, there may have been 5. Sets were roll-on platforms which showed the front view of the shop and opened up to show the inside. They did this for both the feed store and the hat shop. The feed store also had hidden cut-outs all over it, which ensemble members poked their heads through to sing background in one number. And a trap door at the landing.The sets looked as professional as the backdrops. Most of Act II was inside the ritzy restaurant, which featured a large and tall central staircase, the whole set beautifully painted.

The orchestra did a good job too, mostly playing the best kind of accompaniment - the kind where you don't notice it's a live orchestra. The conductor led or followed as needed, and the musicians followed her closely.

More good: some of the cast. Elizabeth McClelland shone as Minnie Fay, a tough thing to do standing next to my favorite local diva, Mary Melnick, playing Irene Molloy. Beautiful voices, lots of energy and lots of personality from both women. Jay Steele was a solid Horace Vandergelder, which brings us to the not so good. His role was made tougher by a total lack of chemistry with Dolly, and barely adequate performances by his two employees. There was also no noticeable chemistry between the other two couples in the show, making the final scenes an unwilling suspension of disbelief.

And then there was the choreography. Way too many people on stage doing way too many different things at  the same time. There was a huge amount of talent on that stage, mostly squandered on frenetic choreography and many moments of serious WTF. 80% of the ensemble singing would have worked better from the wings - the over-packed stage in constant motion tore the focus away from the leads. And Dolly didn't need that at all. She was either having a bad night, or she just was not up to the part. She fumbled many of her lines throughout the show, spoke much of what should hav been sung, sounded like Carol Channing when she did try to sing, and gave us no reason at all to fall in love with her. She used to have that kind of thing nailed when she played the Gaslighter 20+ years ago, but not anymore.

Two more performances left, 8 pm at Saratoga Civic Theater. Call first, they may already be sold out.
Tags: review, theater

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