On Stage: Hello, Dolly!

Before you say goodbye to summer nights at The Muny this year, take the time to say “Hello, Dolly!”

The outdoor theater ends its 96th season in similar fashion to how it began — with a rollicking, no-holds-barred song-and-dance extravaganza. But while season-opener “Billy Elliot” is a relative newcomer to the stage, “Hello, Dolly!” celebrates its 50 anniversary this year.

To honor the occasion, Artistic Director and Executive Producer Mike Isaacson has pulled together a production featuring an excellent cast of actors, singers and dancers; colorful (and in some cases extravagant) costumes; striking sets; a dynamic orchestra and even a high school marching band.

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Beth Leavel gives an outstanding performance in the title role of Dolly Gallagher Levi. Dolly is a woman of many trades but her primary gig is that of matchmaker. Her main objective at the moment is to match herself up with half-millionaire businessman Horace Vandergelder (John O’Hurley) of Yonkers, New York.

Dolly Levi is an overwhelming, charismatic character and Leavel is more than up to the task of playing her. She commands the audience’s attention every moment she’s on stage.

O’Hurley, best known for the role of J. Peterman on “Seinfeld,” returns to the Muny stage after playing King Arthur in last year’s production of “Spamalot.” With his distinctive voice and talent at playing stiff-and-oh-so-proper characters, he’s the perfect foil for Leavel’s Dolly.

Rounding out the main cast are the equally talented Rob McClure and Jay Armstrong Johnson as two of Vandergelder’s hapless employees who slip the boss’s chains to spend a night in the big city; and Mamie Parris and Eloise Kropp as the free-spirited women with whom they spend that night.

The show was directed by Rob Ruggiero with musical direction by James Moore and several memorable dance numbers choreographed by Ralph Perkins. A round of applause should also go to Michael Schweikardt for the show’s elaborate set designs and Amy Clark for the variety of costumes.

Written by Michael Stewart and Jerry Herman and based on the play “The Matchmaker” by Thornton Wilder, “Hello, Dolly!” has humor, heart and a lot of old-fashioned fun. The show features several stand-out moments, including “Before the Parade Passes By,” “Waiters’ Gallop” and the title song.

“Hello, Dolly!” runs through Aug. 17. http://muny.org/

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