“It Only Takes a Moment” To Realize That Playful Theatre Productions’ HELLO, DOLLY! Is Something Special

by Arlene Price Kohler

Jeb Barkenbush is Horace and Pam Jorgensen is Dolly in Playful Theatre Productions' HELLO, DOLLY! running at the Kelsey Theatre through April 17.

From the moment Pam Jorgensen walks onto the stage at the Kelsey Theatre, in Playful Theatre Productions’ version of HELLO, DOLLY! the audience can feel they are in for a very special evening.

The plot of HELLO, DOLLY! originated in the 1935 English play, “A Day Well Spent”. Thornton Wilder adapted Nestroy’s play into his 1938 farce, “The Merchant of Yonkers”. It was a flop. He revised it, expanded the role of Dolly and retitled it “The Matchmaker” and opened in 1955 with Ruth Gordon playing the lead. “The Matchmaker” became a hit, was much revived and in 1958 a film version was made starring Shirley Booth. A later revision entitled ” Dolly, A Damned Exasperating Woman” was done with Ethel Merman in mind as Dolly. She turned it down, as did Mary Martin which made way for Carol Channing to create her most memorable role. The title was changed after Merrick heard Louis Armstrong’s song ‘Hello Dolly’. Incidentally, both Ethel Merman and Mary Martin later took their turns in a long list of actresses who have played Dolly.

That brings us back to the wonderfully multi-talented Ms. Jorgensen. Not only can she belt out a number like nobody’s business, she has great comedic timing, finely tuned acting skills and can really dance! She sang “Before The Parade Passes Me By” with such passion that I heard quite a few sniffles in the crowd. The audience was on their feet for a standing ovation before she even walked on stage for her curtain call. An actress of this caliber enables an ensemble to go from good to wonderful, and this is just what happens here.

While the entire ensemble does a great job there are a few real stand outs. Danielle Shinder as Minnie Fay …just a delight…girl you own this role…love the ‘Minnie’ voice…love your acting…love the way you nail your lines. Not too shabby in the dancing and singing either.

Dominick Sannelli as Barnaby Tucker…just terrific..made me smile every time you were on stage…great movement…those dance lessons really paid off because you were terrific. If someone is doing ‘Wizard of Oz’ they should snag you as the scarecrow.

Jessica Corriveau as Irene Malloy…such a lovely voice. Allwyn Baskin as Rudy the headwaiter…with your spanish lisp (channelling the houseboy from ”The Birdcage”) throughly endearing..what fun! Justin Derry as Cornelius, Jeb Barkenbush as Horace and Donna Reed as Ernestina all turn in fine performances. John Russell is always a fine addition to any cast..good acting and singing and he builds things! The rolling hat shop was charming.

I give a lot of credit to director Timothy Walton for his excellent casting and blocking. Well done. As I have always been a back seat director, there was one scene near the end, with Dolly on stage alone, where I found myself wishing she would move upstage against the backdrop (to be one with Yonkers), when lo and behold…back she went. The wonderfully authentic looking Yonkers street scene backdrop, might have been improved with a bit more stage dressing (stage left, when Vandergelder’s shop is gone) to tie the back drop and stage floor together. A strategically placed street lamp or bench, perhaps?

Pam Fabri Pisani’s choreography is excellent. The cast is nicely costumed, which always adds to the enjoyment of a show.

My thanks to all involved for providing a lovely evening of entertainment.

By the way, the house was nearly full on opening night so I suggest you call ASAP for tickets or you may miss out on what might be the season’s most enjoyable musical.  You certainly should not deprive yourself of seeing and hearing Pam Jorgensen – she is definitely one of the area’s finest.

Music & Lyrics by Jerry Herman
Book by Michael Stewart
Directed by Timothy Walton
April 8 – 17, 2011
Playful Theatre Productions
at Kelsey Theatre
Mercer County Comm College
1200 Old Trenton Rd
West Windsor, NJ 08550

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