By Harry Duke
The Mountain Play returns to the Cushing Memorial Amphitheater atop Mount Tamalpais with a boisterous production of the Jerry Herman classic, Hello, Dolly! Directed by Jay Manley, the quintessential American musical runs Sundays (and one Saturday) though June 19.
Matchmaker Dolly Gallagher Levi (Dyan McBride) has been hired by well-known Yonkers, NY, half-a-millionaire and Hay & Feed store magnate Horace Vandergelder (Randy Nazarian) to find him a bride. Dolly undertakes the matchmaking assignment with relish, particularly because she intends to make herself the match. She’ll accomplish this while simultaneously arranging the nuptials of Horace’s perpetually upset niece, Ermengarde (Jill Jacobs), to artist Ambrose Kemper (Jesse Lumb), over Vandergelder’s objections.
Feed Store workers Cornelius Hackl (Chachi Delgado) and Barnaby Tucker (Zachary Frangos) get intertwined in Dolly’s machinations involving milliner Irene Malloy (Jen Brooks) and her assistant, Minnie Fay (Julia Ludwig), but fear not; love shall conquer all.
It helps to remember that the source material for the original 1964 Broadway production can be traced back to an 1835 one-act. So the attitudes expressed toward the role of women in society are a bit antiquated (at least one number was met with good-natured groans from the audience).
The disapproval was quickly replaced by thunderous applause for the fine work done by the cast in the joyous “Put On Your Sunday Clothes,” as well as other large-scale numbers like “Before the Parade Passes By,” “The Waiter’s Gallop” and, of course, “Hello, Dolly.”
While Dolly’s larger-than-life persona is somewhat diminished by the expansive surroundings, McBride and Nazarian are perfectly matched as the leads, who may well be American musical theater’s least-believable romantic couple. They are surrounded by a talented supporting cast, with Chachi Delgado a stand-out as the quickly-smitten Cornelius.
Colorful costuming by Mishka Navarre catches the eye and draws focus away from what appears to be an incomplete set. Choreographer Zoë Swenson-Graham has the ensemble gliding, leaping, waltzing and polka-ing across the large stage with energy and grace. The vim and vigor they brought to the production was infectious.
Herman’s classic score thundered through the amphitheater, courtesy of David Möschler and a 20-piece orchestra.
By all means, put on your (weather-appropriate) Sunday clothes and head to Mt. Tam before this show passes by…
‘Hello, Dolly!’ runs Sundays through June 19 (and Saturday, June 11), at the Cushing Memorial Amphitheatre in Mount Tamalpais State Park. 801 Panoramic Hwy., Mill Valley. 2pm. $25–$185. 415.383.1100 www.mountainplay.org