PICK! ASR Theater ~~ “Hello, Dolly” an Authentic Joy at Spreckels

By Sue Morgan

Spreckels Theatre Company lit up the 500-seat Nellie W. Codding Theatre at Friday night’s brilliant opening of the beloved classic Hello, Dolly.

With music and lyrics by Jerry Herman and book by Michael Stewart, director Elly Lichenstein’s production is refreshingly true to the original. Set in 1890s Yonkers and New York City, the play follows the machinations of Dolly Gallagher Levi, a former socialite forced to use her prodigious wiles as matchmaker and “arranger of all things” to earn a living after the death of her beloved husband Ephraim. Exhausted by the effort required to keep herself afloat, Dolly sets her sights on snaring the “well-known half-millionaire” Horace Vandergelder, while ostensibly trying to match him with comely milliner and widow Mrs. Irene Molloy.

The choice to stage Dolly in the wake of the complex (and also outstanding) contemporary Irish comedy Stones in His Pockets was a bit of showbiz genius by Spreckels’ Artistic Director Sheri Lee Miller. While at first glance the plays appear wildly disparate, in fact, they both explore the theme of the effects of living in wealth versus poverty, a topic of vital relevancy today as “haves” continue to displace “have nots,” housing prices soar, and wages stagnate.

While some might view Dolly as a gold digger, she is not at all interested in hoarding wealth, as evidenced by her assertion that she adheres to her former husband’s belief that, “Money, pardon the expression, is like manure. It’s not worth a thing unless it’s spread around, encouraging young things to grow.”

(Pictured: Daniela Innocenti Beem as Dolly Levi and Chris Schloemp as Horace Vandergelder).

Perfectly cast in the title role, Daniela Innocenti-Beem radiantly guides the action, charming the audience from her first appearance walking down the center aisle, handing out business cards for every conceivable need before taking the stage to introduce herself in song in the delightful “I Put my Hand In.” The spotlight always appears to shine brighter in her direction.

She’s a solid performer, whether enlivening the many comic scenes, conveying tender wistfulness as she beseeches her deceased husband to send her a sign, dancing, or showcasing her superb voice. Innocenti-Beem is absolutely the star of this show!

Chris Schloemp is spot on as gruff, miserly and calculating Horace Vandergelder. Zane Walters’ combination of earnestness and humor in his portrayal of Chief Clerk Cornelius Hackl hits just the right notes. Both men shine in their respective roles. Fun-loving widow Irene Molloy is deftly played by Madison Scarbrough, whose clear and rich tones during the gorgeous “Ribbons Down My Back” made the song a show-stopper. Kaela Mariano as Ermengarde is also a standout in her perfectly over-the-top depiction of Horace’s spoiled niece. There’s not a lackluster performance in this show!

“Hello Dolly” cast at work.

Set design by Eddy Hansen and Elizabeth Bazzano is beautifully augmented by Nick Lovato’s skillful projections. Lighting and sound design by Eddy Hansen and Jessica Johnson are straightforward and effective. Choreography by Karen Miles, superb throughout the show, reaches its crescendo during the madcap performance of the “Waiter’s Gallop” preceding dinner service at the Harmonia Gardens. Music Direction by Debra Chambliss is impeccable. Many guests made their way to the orchestra pit as the performers left the stage to enjoy seeing the musicians play the final notes of the evening. Oh, and you just have to see the wonderful costuming by Donnie Frank.

Spreckels Theatre Company’s production of Hello, Dolly is musical theatre at its best and kept this reviewer smiling throughout the performance and happily humming all the way home.

With an abbreviated schedule due to an unforeseen issue which caused the play to open a week late, Spreckels has added a special-price performance on Thursday, October 12 at 7:30 P.M. during which all tickets will be $20 for adults and $10 for youth 18 and under. Grab your tickets right away—the show ends its too-brief run October 15th.


Contributing Writer Sue Morgan is a literature-and-theater enthusiast in Sonoma County’s Russian River region. She is a voting member of the SF Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle. Contact: sstrongmorgan@gmail.com


ProductionHello, Dolly
Music & Lyrics by

Book by
Jerry Herman

Michael Stewart
Directed byElly Lichenstein
Producing CompanySpreckels Performing Arts
Production DatesThrough Sept 10th
Production AddressSpreckels Performing Arts Center
5409 Snyder Lane
Rohnert Park, CA 94928
Telephone(707) 588-3429
Tickets$16 - $36
Reviewer ScoreMax in each category is 5/5
Aisle Seat Review Pick?YES!