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Ticket-buyers say 'hello'' to crowd-pleasing musical

The Show Palace Dinner Theater's production of Hello, Dolly begins Feb. 16 and has already proven to be a hot ticket.

By BARBARA L. FREDRICKSEN

© St. Petersburg Times, published February 9, 2001


For more than 10 months, Hello, Dolly held the record as Broadway's longest-running musical, finally being overtaken by Fiddler on the Roof. Dolly went on to run for 2,844 performances and become one of the two signature musicals for Broadway diva Carol Channing, the other being Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.

The Show Palace Dinner Theatre will launch its version of the audience-pleasing musical on Feb. 16. More than two weeks before the opening, the Palace had sold more than 7,000 tickets to the show and added two additional performances to the already-scheduled 34 shows.

"This is going to be a very popular show," said Nick Sessa, co-owner of the Palace.

The reason is easy to understand. Dolly has it all: a spunky, independent, middle-age heroine, love blooming for the young and the not-so-young, lots of hijinks and high-stepping dance numbers, Jerry Herman's joyful music and lyrics, and turn-of-the-century costumes that glitter and sparkle.

Some of the Show Palace's favorite performers are returning to be in the show, starting with Patti Eyler (La Mome Pistache in Can-Can) as Dolly, the matchmaker; Tom Bengston (Governor in Best Little Whorehouse in Texas; Boris in Can-Can) as the tightwad Horace Vandergelder; and Laura Lynne Tapper (Sugar in Some Like It Hot; Hodel in Fiddler on the Roof) as Irene Molloy, the object of Vandergelder's attentions, plus more than a dozen other singers and dancers.

Hello, Dolly centers on Dolly Gallagher Levi, a widow who arranges everything from corset repairs to marriages. Horace Vandergelder, wealthy pennypincher, hires her to find him a bride, but Dolly quickly decides to land him herself so she can spread his money around for the betterment of humankind.

She sets him up with the widow Irene, then proceeds to undermine the romance in her own favor.

Meanwhile, she encourages Horace's niece Ermengarde (Adrienne Phillips) to return the love of a poor artist Horace dislikes, Ambrose Kemper (Michael Dixon) and fosters a romance between Horace's chief clerk Cornelius (Matthew McGee) and Irene.

This all comes to a head at the Harmonia Gardens restaurant, where Dolly wows the waiters (Troy LaFon, Ken Robinson, Aaron Wooten, and Tyler Fish), sending them into a high-kicking reception for the show's biggest number, Hello, Dolly!

Rounding out the cast is Chelle St. Pierre as Irene's employee Minnie Fay, Sara Del Beato as the rich, but gauche Ernestina Money, Steve Rossi as the Judge, Julie Petrick as Mrs. Rose, Candler Budd as Rudolph and Danielle Hardy and Emily Taylor as members of the chorus.

The director is Steven Flaa, who also directed Some Like It Hot, Fiddler on the Roof and Forever Plaid at the Show Palace.

The choreographer is John Vincent Leggio, who was choreographer for Red Hot Ragtime at the Show Palace and has choreographed several shows at the Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center's Jaeb Theater and performed on Broadway and touring company versions of Show Boat, My Fair Lady, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat and as Mungo Jerrie in Cats.

At a glance

WHAT: Hello, Dolly!

WHERE: Show Palace Dinner Theatre, 16128 U.S. 19, Hudson

WHEN: Feb. 16-March 25. Performances are at 1:30 p.m. Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays; 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and on March 14 and March 21; and 3 p.m. Sundays. Doors open two hours before each show for buffet and cash bar.

TICKETS: Dinner and show, $35.95; show only, $24.95. Ages 12 and younger, $19.95 and $14.95. Box office is open 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday-Thur.; 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday; 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday. Call 863-7949 in west Pasco; elsewhere, call toll free (888) 655-7469.

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