The Music Circus at its best – as it is with the current “Hello Dolly!” – casts a warming glow.Temperatures being what they are, warmth is unnecessary, but times being what they are, the glow is welcome. A title as venerable and familiar as “Dolly!” feels known, but what sure-handed director Glenn Casale’s lustrous production accomplishes is not reinvent the classic but reveal its greatness.
The musical first opened on Broadway in 1964 and it’s been produced at the Music Circus seven previous times, most recently in 2009. Based on Thorton Wilder’s play “The Matchmaker” with a lean book by Michael Stewart and a glorious variety of storytelling songs by Jerry Herman, the musical comedy champions old-school, Old World charms. In the century before Tinder and OkCupid, hooking up (meeting an age-appropriate, eligible single) was facilitated by human matchmakers, not algorithms or sexy selfies.
In New York at the turn of the 20th century, Dolly Gallagher Levi makes her living by what she calls “meddling,” though. Today, it just might be called “getting her hustle on.” Dolly does what she can, primarily making personal introductions for single people looking to change their marital status, but the longtime widow also desires to change her own. The elegant, beautifully voiced Lynne Wintersteller gives Dolly a wry but impenetrable self confidence. Her clients include Horace Vandergelder (the famous half-a-millionaire, played by Stuart Marland) and the widow Irene Molloy, a milliner (women’s hat maker), played by Jacquelyn Piro Donovan. Times are such that, oddly, a milliner is a scandalous occupation, but Molloy could care less. She’s willing to wear a “provocative” hat to show she’s looking for love.
Galvanizing the show are Vandergelder’s two overworked clerks, Cornelius Hackl and Barnaby Tucker. Knowing their boss will be absent in the city for a meeting arranged by Dolly, the pair decide they’ll go off on their own adventure and kiss a girl. John Scherer and Jordan Grubb combine athletic physical comedy with artless charm as the two clerks seeking the times of their lives.
Herman’s memorable score includes such gems as “Put On Your Sunday Clothes” and “Dancing” and the poignant ballads “Before the Parade Passes By” and “It Only Takes A Moment.” The classic show-stopping title tune doesn’t disappoint, but the score as performed by the orchestra under conductor Craig Barna has a richness all its own.
While Wintersteller commands the production, Donovan and Scherer provide the heart and passion as they surprisingly fall for each other. The bright, dynamic costumes were designed by Marcy Froehlich.
The stricter, closeted social conventions of the times heighten the emotional stakes, with the ground rules seemingly designed to keep the sexes apart so that when they do get together it feels like a victory for the greater good.
What: The Music Circus production with Lynne Wintersteller, Stuart Marchand, Jacquelyn Piro Donovan, John Scherer and Jordan Grubb. Glenn Casale directs.
When: 7:30 p.m. Wednesday - Saturday; 2 p.m Thursday and Saturday and 3 p.m. Sunday; through July 3.
Where: Wells Fargo Pavilion, 1419 H St., Sacramento