Theatre Review: ‘Hello, Dolly!’ at Niagara Regional Theatre Guild

When it comes to the traditional, bubbly musical comedy, the name Jerry Herman is one that usually comes to mind. Herman’s quirky music scores, and catchy tunes are ones keep his work in the vault of musical theatre for millions of theatergoers a year to enjoy. “Hello, Dolly!” is one of those crowd favorites. A campy story with fun songs that you hum to yourself on your way out of the theatre. Who can ask for more than that? Niagara Regional Theatre Guild kicks off their 2018-2019 season with a fun night out by performing an American classic.

. . .NRTG has a hit on their hands. . .

“Hello, Dolly!” tells the story of Dolly Levi (Dianna Kolek), a fast talking, con-woman, who has her eyes set on marrying one of the richest men in Yonkers, Horace Vandergelder (Marc Rufino), but in order to do it, she needs to manipulate his life, and the lives of those around him to make it all come true. Dolly is a larger than life presence that everyone falls in love with, but can she find love in the end?

NRTG takes on a monumental feat with this show, and does an admirable job. Bringing the community together to star in this show of love, loss, and adventure, director Joe Fratello assembles an enormous ensemble to help tell this story. When I say enormous, I mean enormous. The ensemble works to create great atmosphere in Dolly’s world, but I wonder if maybe a less is more approach could have also worked. There were so many people, and it didn’t seem to add or take away from the production.

Leading the show as Dolly is Dianna Kolek. Kolek takes this role and makes it entertaining, putting smilies on the faces of the audience. Mechanically speaking, Kolek is wonderful when she sings and performs, but there is just one thing missing, the exaggeration of Dolly’s larger than life personality. As a con-woman, and a fast talker, I was looking forward to seeing Dolly use her quick wit and quick tongue. Kolek does an admirable job, but this little push could have really brought her performance to the next level.

Marc Ruffino gets great laughs as Horace Vandergelder. Right from the get-go, Ruffino is a crowd favorite. His mannerisms, exaggeration, and stage presence is hilarious for this role, and he gets great response with the mugging that he does throughout the second act. Ruffino does not disappoint.

Two highlights in the show are the performances of Richard Plotkin and Angelo Heimowitz as Cornelius and Barnaby, respectfully. These two are the comedic relief and bring forth fantastic choices to get crowd response. They shine in the end of act one, in the scene in Mrs. Molloy’s Hat Shop as well as in act two when they take their dates to Harmonia Garden Restaurant and cannot pay for their meals. Hilarious performances by these two.

Ivan Docenko’s music direction is wonderful and the cast sounds great when they sing. There could have been a little more enthusiasm during the “Hello, Dolly” number from the chorus, but that is a small detail.

One thing that I need to mention are the scene transitions. Scene transitions are very difficult and very important to keep the audience engaged and the keep the story moving. There is room for improvement here, when the scenes change in the show. Some of the transitions are long, and these take me, as the viewer out, of the story. I am sure that these will tighten up as the show continues.

Overall, I really enjoyed this production, and I think that NRTG has a hit on their hands. I would encourage anyone to go see this hugely successful community effort.

Running Time: 2 Hours 30 minutes with one 15-minute intermission.

“Hello, Dolly!” runs until September 30, 2018 and is presented by Niagara Regional Theatre Guild. For more information, click here.