We often celebrate theaters that do cutting-edge productions, theaters that produce works never before seen in the area or take huge risks somehow.
Those productions, those theaters, should be celebrated — if theater is to continue, it needs to evolve, much like any art form, and needs venues in which to do so — but there is something to be said for revisiting, and revisiting well, a classic piece of theater.
WHERE: Cohoes Music Hall, 58 Remsen St., Cohoes
WHEN: Through Nov. 11
HOW MUCH: $35-$25
MORE INFO: 237-5858, www.cohoesmusichall.com
Cohoes Music Hall’s production of “Hello, Dolly!” is just such a production — one to be celebrated. It is a joyous piece of theater, a visual delight, and you can’t help but enjoy yourself while watching it.
First produced on Broadway in 1964, and based on Thornton Wilder’s The Matchmaker — yes, Our Town’s Thornton Wilder — “Hello, Dolly!” tells the story of Dolly Gallagher Levi, a loud, lovable matchmaker who is slightly down on her luck since losing her husband. She has a scheme to get back in society, where she once was, by matching herself to Horace Vandergelder, “half-a-millionaire” who runs a hay and feed store. Unfortunately, Horace wants a wife who keeps his house and keeps her nose out of everyone’s business — a wife completely opposite of everything Dolly would bring to the table. Dolly, however, pushes on undaunted, matchmaking other couples along the way and bringing joie de vivre to everyone she meets.
It’s hard to single out individuals for praise in this production. There simply wasn’t a weak link among the cast, from the ensemble to the leads. Monica M. Wemitt’s Dolly was the standout, of course. Her characterization was wonderful — not too over-the-top, not a caricature, very believable and true. She didn’t play it for the laughs — the laughs came naturally. Her voice was beautiful and soaring, and her “Hello, Dolly!” when she re-entered society, was an absolute triumph. She completely deserved the standing ovation she received at curtain call.
Peyton Thomas Tucker’s Cornelius and John Cardenas’ Barnaby also deserve special mention. Their characters could have been nothing more than comic relief with some B-plotline romance thrown in, but they made them so much more. It was a delight to watch their characters evolve throughout the show. I found myself looking forward to them being onstage because they were just so much fun to watch, even when they weren’t the focus of the scene. Their “It Takes a Woman,” with Mark A. Burgasser’s Horace Vandergelder, featuring tongue-in-cheek lyrics about a woman’s role in a man’s life, was spot-on and groaningly hilarious.
Jim Charles’ direction was flawless. The staging was perfect; the pacing was crisp, the characters interacted with each other and were always 100 percent engaged with everything happening in each scene. Michele Tibbitts’ choreography was fantastic, as well — there wasn’t anyone on stage who couldn’t dance, and couldn’t dance well. It was awe-inspiring to watch. Special mention, too, to Jimm Halliday’s costumes — absolutely beautiful work.
It is easy to choose to do a classic piece of theater because it is safe, and seen as a simple choice. This production proves that a classic, done well, can also be beautiful, thrilling and an absolutely wonderful evening of theater.