North Bay audiences finally got a chance to say “hello” to Dolly Gallagher Levi after the curtain rose on the bureaucratically-delayed Spreckels Theatre Company production of Hello, Dolly! Veteran director Elly Lichenstein makes her Spreckels debut with the Jerry Herman classic now running at the Spreckels Performing Arts Center in Rohnert Park through Oct. 15.
The musical tale of a marriage-minded matchmaker has delighted audiences for close to 60 years, from its 1964 Broadway debut through multiple revivals, touring companies and community theater productions. Last seen in this area in a 2018 Sonoma Arts Live production, Daniela Innocenti Beem returns in the title role again, albeit on a much larger stage and with a live 12-piece orchestra, under the musical direction of Mountain Play veteran Debra Chambliss.
Relationship interloper and jill-of-all-trades Dolly Levi (Beem) has her eyes set on half-a-millionaire feed store magnate Horace Vandergelder (Chris Schloemp). Feed store employees Cornelius Hackl (Zane Walters) and Barnaby Tucker (Michael Kessell, understudying for Chase Thompson) have their eyes set on a night of adventure in New York City. Milliner Irene Malloy (Madison Scarbrough) and her assistant Minnie Fay (Anna Vorperian) are looking to flirt with and then dump a couple of playboys. Paths cross, and everything comes to a head at the fabulous Harmonia Gardens restaurant.
This is Beem’s third run at the role, and she clearly loves the character. The expansive Spreckels stage is a good fit for both the show and Beem’s talents. Schloemp, a reliable character actor, is a bit out of his range (especially vocally) in the role of stuffed shirt Vandergelder, but he does nail the character’s comedic bits. The Dolly/Horace relationship has always been the show’s weakest link, but their dinner scene was the comedic highlight of the evening.
Walters, Scarbrough, Kessel and Vorperian are all delightful in their roles, and Kaela Mariano is quite a stitch as Vandergelder’s wailing daughter.
The score was beautifully delivered by Chambliss and the orchestra, and the cast, for the most part, delivers strong vocal work. The choreography by Karen Miles was hit-and-miss. A minimalist approach to “Before the Parade Passes By” worked; a disappointingly flat “Waiters Gallop” did not.
What effect the administrative issues that delayed the show’s opening had on the finished product only the participants know. There’s a lot of good work being done here, but there’s an unevenness in this production that makes you wonder “What if?”
‘Hello, Dolly!’ runs through Oct. 15 in the Codding Theater at the Spreckels Performing Arts Center, 5409 Snyder La., Rohnert Park. Thurs-Sat, 7:30pm; Sun, 2pm. $12-$42. 707.588.3400. spreckelsonline.com.