Standing ovations are nothing new in this theater-oriented community. You see them all summer long during the Utah Shakespearean Festival.
But the opening-night performance of Southern Utah University's all-student production of "Hello, Dolly!" was accorded a well-deserved round of standing applause, too, this past Thursday.Matchmaker Dolly Gallagher Levi is famous for "arranging furniture . . . and daffodils . . . and lives." But director Roger Bean does a fine job of arranging things, too - like top-notch casts and talented designers and backstage crews.
Under Bean's capable supervision this is a first-rate production that ranks alongside any collegiate shows we've seen throughout the region.
Rebecca E. White's beautifully executed scenery and Sandra Stiglinski's elegant costuming set the proper tone for this musical from the moment the curtain went up. There's a sort of pastel Currier & Ives aura to the production, which makes Dolly stand out even more as the show progresses. When the life-sized, steam-puffing train pulled into the Yonkers railroad depot, the audience cheered.
Bean has a large cast - eight principals and a huge crowd of New York and Yonkers residents. And he is fortunate, indeed, to have a particularly strong actress for the title role.
For the part of Dolly, "it takes a woman . . ." who will come on like gangbusters and go full-tilt for the rest of the evening. April Black is that kind of performer. A hefty share of the standing ovation belonged to her alone. This is a "Dolly" who means business - from stirring things up at the Harmonia Gardens restaurant to playing mix-and-match with a delightful assortment of young lovers.
R. Matthew Benton is also perfectly cast as that rascally half-a-millionaire Horace Vandergelder, giving him a just-this-side-of curmudgeonly skinflint edge. He may snuggle up to his cash register in public, but we know that, deep down, he needs a woman to bring some warmth back into his life.
Two real knock-outs were Deven S. May and Buddy Waters as Cornelius Hackl and Barnaby Tucker, Horace's two feed store clerks anxious for a night on the town in New York City. This show is lively enough as it is, but the energy level literally bursts at the seams when May and Waters are on stage as the 33-year-old never-been-kissed Hackl and his 17-year-old, wet-behind-the-ears cohort.
Freshman Bets Malone is exuberant as the giddy Minnie Fay, and both D. Damian Curtis and Stacy Nix are excellent in the secondary roles of Ambrose and the constantly wailing Ermengarde.
Janae Koralewski, playing milliner and widow Irene Malloy, fared better as an actress than a singer, but the fact that she was occasionally slightly off key could be chalked up to opening-night jitters. She looked and acted the role of a blonde who acquired widowhood under somewhat mysterious circumstances (if she serves chowder . . . take a powder).
Vickie Schmitt's choreography - especially the sprightly "Waiters' Gallop" - and Brian William Baker's musical direction were first-rate.
If you're looking for a pleasent getaway trip this weekend, head for Cedar City for a night of wonderfully entertaining theater - "Hello, Dolly!" in particular.
- AND IF YOU GO, plan to arrive early enough to spend some time enjoying the current exhibit in SUU's Braithwaite Gallery.
In the Large Gallery are a variety of works by students at SUU, including prints, watercolors, pottery, sculpture, sketches and tapestries. The adjacent Small Gallery contains some extraordinary examples of work from Maxine Davie's senior portfolio.
The gallery is open Mondays-Thursdays from 9 a.m. until 7 p.m., Fridays until 5 p.m. and Saturdays from 1 to 5 p.m.