Hello, Dolly!

By Richard Schultz, February 2016 Web Exclusive.

In the annals of Broadway history, a short list of shows are considered iconic because they defined a particular time, represented a distinct style of production and shaped the careers of their stars.

Without a doubt, Hello, Dolly!, created by composer and lyricist Jerry Herman, is on that list.

The production’s original director, Gower Champion, and producer, David Merrick, are Broadway royalty. It’s star, Carol Channing, is so closely associated with the title role of Dolly Levi that all others are often compared to her memorable portrayal.

From Feb. 3 to 6, Scottsdale Musical Theater Company (SMTC), is staging this classic musical to recapture that bygone luster that harkens back to its original Broadway run.

David Hock, SMTC executive producer and director, plans to evoke the excitement of the original production by staging it at the Tempe Center for the Arts’ mainstage.

“We have amazing backdrops from a theater company in Canada,” he said. “We are bringing in touring sets that give the show a big feeling. The costumes are from one of the best known costume houses in California, [and] are visually stunning. With a hydraulic orchestra pit, we are able to use the same orchestrations and orchestral instruments that the original show used. We'll have 22 musicians which will sound incredible.”

Hock is certain audiences will be dazzled by the Broadway-style choreography, co-created with collaborator Bill Hotaling, who has worked extensively in New York and around the country.

Additionally, Hock said he’s focused on keeping the story real and relevant for modern audiences.

“I'm hoping to present a more genuine portrayal with multidimensional characters. I want the audience to be moved,” he said. “In our production, we are definitely looking at love and the different ways people can fall in love and what they are seeking in a relationship.”

Left to right: David Hock, SMTC executive producer and director; Brandi Bigley, who has been case as Dolly; and Hector Coris, SMTC associate producer.

Brandi Bigley, who portrayed Katie Holmes in the TomKat Project with Stray Cat Theatre and Young Sally in Follies with Theatre Works, is taking on the monumental task of playing the iconic Dolly.

Bigley admits she hasn’t seen the famous actresses who have previously played this role.

“I have an open mind and let the other characters influence me,” she said. “My Dolly is more feminine than fans may be used to seeing onstage. She is a fiercely independent woman with a quick wit and charming demeanor. In a way, she is guarded and is always putting on a brave face for the world. She’s most vulnerable when speaking to her late husband. Those are the moments that ground her as the audience sees and feels her deep emotions. I simply try to be as truthful as I can be, living each moment with urgency and purpose.”

Hello, Dolly! is purely an iconic LGBT classic musical,” said Hector Coris, SMTC associate producer. “It's pure confection. For many gay men of a certain age, seeing musicals like these cemented their own ‘show queen’ status.”

Coris recognizes Herman as the last standing creator of musicals in this classic genre.

“This type of musical was presented at the height of Broadway's Golden Age,” he said. “And no one did it better than Herman, now 82, a gay man, whose iconic characters of Dolly and Auntie Mame are LGBT favorites.”

“Herman's songs are, on the surface, uncomplicated and straight-forward. He doesn't try to shock or dazzle you with complex musicianship, but it takes an inimitable skill to create something so simple, yet effective,” Coris said. “His shows are optimistic and many of his songs have been associated with the LGBT struggle. With songs like ‘Before the Parade Passes By’ and ‘I Am What I Am,’ he created anthems for the LGBT community that you cannot help but grab onto their message and carry them with you.”

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Photo courtesy of Michael Feinstein.

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