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Hello, Dolly!

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Next season will see a new production of Hello, Dolly! on Broadway. It remains to be seen what Bette Midler, David Hyde Pierce, and director Jerry Zaks will do with the show but, thanks to 3D Theatricals, Southland audiences have a chance to reacquaint themselves with the property before the Broadway revival opens.

The original Broadway production was a spectacular hit which ran for a then-remarkable 6 years. The show’s success sparked international productions, and, until recently, was a staple of regional houses in the United States.

The show is solid entertainment (it’s based on a Thornton Wilder play) and has a sparkling and memorable score by Jerry Herman at the top of his game. It also provides a genuine star turn for ladies of a certain age. Hundreds of stars and demi-stars have sashayed down the steps of the Harmonia Gardens as a chorus of male waiters sing the title song.

Dolly Levi (Valeire Perri) is a widow with an eye on marrying again. Her intended prey is Horace Vandergelder (Robert Yacko), a wealthy, but tightfisted businessman in Yonkers. Dolly’s problem is that she has taken on Vandergelder as a client in her matchmaking business and has already found a young widow, Irene Molloy (Afton Quast), that he is planning to propose to in her millinery shop in New York.

Complications in the farcical plot include Vandergelder’s put-upon clerks Cornelius Hackl (Gary Patent) and Barnaby Tucker (Chris Villain) who decide to enjoy a day of adventure in New York – they vow not to return until they’ve kissed a girl. And there’s Vandergelder’s weepy niece Ernestine (Tasha Tormey) who is desperate to marry Ambrose Kemper (Bradley Cashman), in spite of her uncle’s disapproval.

The fun for an audience is in watching Dolly wheedle, meddle, and misdirect with such bravado that she leads them all to the brink of disaster-- an experience which changes everyone’s outlook on life. She then proceeds to untangle the complicated skeins of love, so that each person finds themselves with the correct partner. Including, of course, Dolly herself.

Director Ken Sawyer immediately lets us know that this is not your father’s Dolly, though it is far from a radical revision of the piece. The show’s opening is, perhaps, its biggest departure from the original. After the orchestral prelude, lights reveal an uncharacteristically still and reflective Dolly at her dressing table, planning her conquest of Vandergelder. This moves into the show’s first number, which turns out to be the opening of the film “Just Leave Everything to Me,” as opposed to the song which typically starts the show, “I Put My Hand In.” These are subtle but important changes which signal Sawyer’s desire to look at Dolly a little differently.

Perri and Yacko are musical theatre veterans who seem to be enjoying a graceful shift from their early successes (Evita for her and Sondheim leads for him) to character roles. Perri is a charming, energetic, and determined Dolly. Yacko is properly irascible and cantankerous as he’s drawn into all of Dolly’s schemes. Both of them sing the score with far more voice and musicality than normal for the roles. But the parts were written for eccentric comedians, and, accomplished and entertaining as Perri and Yacko are, the comic spark is slightly muted in their performances.

It’s muted in most of the rest of the cast as well. Quast warbles prettily as Irene, but she remains a standard soubrette, despite the ribbons down her back. The exceptions are Patent and Villain who bring a welcome quirkiness to their portrayals of the clerks discovering life and love in the big city.

That said, the production is handsome, particularly John Iacovelli’s New York street sketch set, and the show proves to be an audience-pleaser.

Plummer Auditorium/Redondo Beach Performing Arts Center   July 15, 2016 – August 7, 2016



Laguna Playhouse Announces Ellen Richard as its Interim Executive Director

May 3, 2016…Laguna Beach, Calif…Laguna Playhouse Board of Directors announced today that, later this month, Ellen Richard will be joining Laguna Playhouse as its Interim Executive Director. The Playhouse announced late last year that it was undertaking a national search guided by Arts Consulting Group (ACG) for an Executive Director to succeed Karen Wood who had held this position for the past eight years.

Commenting on the appointment Joe Hanauer and Paul Singarella, Co-Chairmens of the Board of Directors, said “In the midst of our search we encountered this wonderful opportunity to engage Ellen while we continue to seek appropriate long-term leadership. To have found someone with the extraordinary qualifications that Ellen has is thrilling. She is the recipient of six Tony Awards as producer at New York’s Roundabout Theatre Company where she was Managing Director. Ellen also has strong successes in supervising the construction of theatres in New York and also in San Francisco at the American Conservatory Theater, a rare and valuable skill set considering the contemplated major remodel and expansion of the Laguna Playhouse.” Laguna Playhouse Artistic Director Ann E. Wareham adds, “We are pleased and proud to have Ellen Richard, truly a rock-star in our field, join us as our interim Executive Director who will help guide the Playhouse during this transition.” Comments Ellen Richard, “I have quickly grown fond of Laguna Beach and the Playhouse. I embrace this extraordinary opportunity to join one of the country’s top regional theatres at this time in its remarkable 95-year history. I look forward to helping the Playhouse and working with their incredible Board of Trustees and Ann E. Wareham.”


Ellen Richard served as Executive Director of the American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco from 2010 through 2015.  During her tenure, Ms. Richard negotiated a deal to buy the Strand Theater in tech corridor of Mid-Market San Francisco, helped raise the $34,000 million to renovate and operate it and steered the design and construction for the project which opened in May of 2015. The complex featured two performance spaces and has won multiple awards.  She opened the 50 seat Costume Shop Theater, a 49-seat “black box” venue used for the company’s Master of Fine Arts students and for shows by other local companies.  Ms. Richard was also credited with expanding the company’s educational efforts, coming up with programs like the San Francisco Semester, which brings undergraduate acting students to ACT from around the world, and Stage Coach, a community theater mobile unit that reaches into diverse neighborhoods

She was also Executive Director of The Second Stage Theatre in New York City. During her tenure at Second Stage, which began in 2006 (through 2009), she was responsible for the purchase contract of the Helen Hayes Theatre, growth in subscription income of 48 percent, and growth in individual giving of 75 percent, as well as conceptualization of a highly successful gala format and “Second Generation,” a giving program through which donors enable deserving New York City youth to experience live theater. Under Ms. Richard’s leadership, Second Stage provided the initial home for the Broadway productions Everyday Rapture, Next to Normal, and The Little Dog Laughed.

From 1983 to 2005, Ms. Richard enjoyed a rich and varied career with Roundabout Theatre Company. The Roundabout that Ms. Richard joined was a small nonprofit theater company in bankruptcy. By the time she departed as Managing Director, Roundabout had become one of the country’s largest and most successful theater companies of its kind, with net assets in excess of $67 million dollars. Ms. Richard is the recipient of six Tony Awards as producer, for Roundabout productions of Cabaret (1998), A View from the Bridge (1998), Side Man (1999), Nine (2003), Assassins (2004), and Glengarry Glen Ross (2005). As producer of more than 125 shows at Roundabout, she had direct supervision of all management and marketing functions. She created Roundabout’s “Theatre-PLUS” programs, which include singles, teachers, family, gay and lesbian, wine tasting, and the 7 p.m. “Early Curtain” series, all of which grew to represent more than 10 percent of Roundabout’s 40,000 subscribers.

As director of design and construction at Roundabout, Ms. Richard was responsible for more than $50 million of theater construction for 11 projects. She conceptualized the three permanent Roundabout stages — The Broadway venues of Studio 54 and the American Airlines Theatre, and the Off-Broadway venue The Harold and Miriam Steinberg Center for Theatre She directed the location search for Cabaret and oversaw the creation of the production’s environmental Kit Kat Klub. Prior to her tenure at Roundabout, Ms. Richard served as business manager of Westport Country Playhouse, theater manager for Stamford Center for the Arts, and business manager for Atlas Scenic Studio. She began her career working as a stagehand, sound designer, and scenic artist assistant.