First Look: ‘Dear World’ at O’Connell & Company

When one thinks of classic, bouncy, Broadway musicals, the name Jerry Herman comes to mind. Herman, who composed the music and lyrics to such critically acclaimed hits as “Mame,” “Hello, Dolly!” and ‘La Cage Aux Folles,” is the pinochle of the traditional Broadway musical. These shows are acclaimed for being successes and box office hits. One of his other shows, “Dear World” may have won it’s star a Tony Award, but did not necessarily win audiences over during it’s original run in 1969. Since that time, however, the story has been reworked, and the show itself has gone through a major facelift. Luckily, the Buffalo theatre community will have the chance to be introduced to this reworked show, as O’Connell & Company opens their 2017-2018 season with it.

“Dear World” tells the story of good verses evil, where the right choices have to be made, and where love triumphs materialism and greed. This show has a book by Jerome Lawrence & Robert E. Lee and music and lyrics by Jerry Herman.

Mary Kate O’Connell stars as Countess Aurelia, the role originated by Angela Lansbury on Broadway in 1969, in this timeless tale. “It’s a show that could be ripped out of the headlines now,” says O’Connell, who claims that this show has been on her bucket list for some time. “It wasn’t ‘Mame’ or ‘Hello, Dolly,’ but those who know the show, love the show.”

“Dear World” is not a show that has been done around the community often. “This is the first time that this retooled version has been done in the area,” says O’Connell,  “The audience will enjoy the presentation of the storytelling and the charming songs in this piece.”

Kelli Bocock-Natale directs this classic for the O’Connell & Company stage. “Kelli has made this show into small moments that move,” says O’Connell, “they are all beautifully colored and oddly shaped jigsaw puzzle pieces that put this beautiful story together. She is creating a work of art.”

When asked how it feels to take on a role originated by an icon like Angela Lansbury, O’Connell says that she has made a conscience effort to not copy Lansbury’s performance and works on making the role her own. “I am a huge fan of her character choices, and she inspires me to make bigger, and better choices for my characters,” says O’Connell, “but it is not my job to perform a caricature of her.”

O’Connell says that audiences will find the story very topical and should be able to relate to the happenings in it. “I think it’s charming enough to make people feel empowered to leave the theatre and go make a change. The ripple effect of doing good things is profound.”

“Dear World” opens on September 28, 2017 and runs until October 22, 2017 at O’Connell & Company, in residence at The Park School of Buffalo. For more information, click here.

Promotional Consideration Provided By The Theatre Alliance of Buffalo.