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A CurtainUp London Review
It is Samantha Spiro's evening as the eponymous Dolly. She is full of warmth, she has an over the top personality and is as outstandingly bossy as the bustle on her skirt. Rather cruelly a passing helicopter tried to drown her opening lines in the big parade number but she recovered full voice quickly. Jerry Herman's musical isn't for realists, it's frankly escapism. The curved wooden set is like a wedding cake of tiers of wooden arched balconies, the top one housing the live orchestra. For the final number in the first act there are red white and blue rosettes strung on the balcony and tri-coloured flag banners unfurl the length and width of the stage for the march number "Before The Parade Passes By".
Now I must have seen the movie, if only in snatches on the television, but there were directorial touches, which may or may not be original that I really enjoyed. The men dance with canes which become hat stands in Irene Molloy's (Josefina Gabrielle) milliners and the women dancers remove their hats so as to provide the merchandise. There is a wonderful train formed out of a trolley, two round hat suitcases and a tall man in stove pipe hat which really smokes forming the chimney of the train. It's witty and great fun!
There are some fine performances. Akiya Henry's comic little doll of a shop girl is full of energy and cuteness while Josefina Gabrielle wins hearts as the milliner who falls for Mr Vandergelder's chief clerk Cornelius Hackl (Daniel Crossley). As he asks to put his arms around her, she says, "I might as well warn you, a corset is a corset!" Not a Liberty bodice then! (British undergarment of the 1890s with rubber buttons designed to liberate women from the tightly laced corset) We loved the scene when Cornelius and Barnaby Tucker (Oliver Brenin) are hiding from Mr Vandergelder in the hat shop and have to keep moving under different counters and behind curtains so as to escape detection. At the end of Act Two, formerly grumpy Mr Vandergelder's (Allan Cordunner) love song to Dolly is sentimental but very affecting, as he shows how bowled him over he is by her charm.
The troupe of dancing waiters at the Harmonia Gardens Restaurant are the choreographic virtuoso highlight with a tap dance, spinning silver trays, high kicks and napkin waving brilliance. Dressed in red costumes with black spot buttons they look like six spot ladybirds and dance wonderfully. This production of Hello Dolly! is a real treat.
Retold by Tina Packer of Shakespeare & Co.
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