Springfield Little Theatre will produce "Hello, Dolly!," the multiple Tony-winning Broadway classic, for the first time since the 1999-2000 season. It opens Friday Feb. 7 and runs through Feb. 23 at the Landers Theatre, 311 E. Walnut. Director and choreographer Chyrel Love Miller talked about the production on “Arts News.”
The big selling point for this show, of course, is that the romantic and comic exploits of Dolly Levi, late 19th-century matchmaker and “woman who arranges things,” will be played by Broadway veteran Kim Crosby. Miller joked that both she and Crosby feel they’ve finally “grown into” the show and the role. This is Crosby’s first time playing Dolly, and Miller said, “as we begrudgingly state between the two of us, she has aged into playing roles like Dolly Levi, and I’ve aged into being able to direct ‘Dolly!’ (Kim) will probably kill me (for mentioning this), because is forever and eternally our Cinderella in ‘Into The Woods,’ but she has finally gotten to the point that she can play Dolly Levi. We’re having fun with it. We’re having a good time.”
Couldn’t Miller have directed “Hello, Dolly!” when she was younger? “I think I might not have appreciated the show and its statements when I was much younger. And I think I would not have maybe approached the dances the way I have in this production. You have to be willing to be flexible, to not make every show ‘flashy.’ Some of the dance numbers are about the music—unbelievably!” And she’s right: “Hello, Dolly!”, with book by Michael Stewart and music and lyrics by Jerry Herman, is classic, old-style Broadway musical theater. According to Miller, (designer) “Chuck Rogers made the statement that it’s been a long time since SLT has done an old-style Broadway show, because we’ve moved into some of the more modern genres. We’re actually renting two of the (back)drops: one of 14th Street and one of Grand Central Station, because we no longer do that (type of show) anymore. It’s very much in the tradition of old Broadway.” Miller said the production will honor composer/lyricist Jerry Herman, who died December 26, 2019. The original 1964 Broadway production of “Hello, Dolly!” was choreographed by choreographer/dancer/actor Gower Champion, and LT’s production is also meant to honor his “simplistic choreography was so beautiful and meticulous, (as well as) Jerry Herman’s lovely music, that everyone from Carol Channing—there’s been a bunch of Dollies. Even Pearl Bailey played Dolly at one time. It has stood the test of longevity. It is a true star turn for the Dolly Levi character.”
At the same time, Chyrel Miller emphasized that she and set designer Chuck Rogers have patterned their “Hello, Dolly!” production after the Broadway revival that starred both Bette Midler and Bernadette Peters. “Basically for the revival, they took out all of the very large sets and made it more ‘minimalistic’ or representational. Because of that, all the set-change music is gone”, which Miller says saves several minutes of stage time. The show has been consistently timing out at just under 2 hours and 15 minutes, including intermission. Also, the costuming is 1880s, ‘theatrical style,’ so it’s a lot brighter, a lot more fun, I think. And with Parker Payne as our Musical Director, we’ve picked up the pace of the music a little bit. But it is the same story, with the same characters—it’s just a little jazzed up, I guess.”
There are 38 in the cast. In addition to Kim Crosby as Dolly, the cast includes Eric Eichenberger as Horace, Clayton Avery as Cornelius, Kassandra Wright as Irene. “We have a lot of (LT) returnees” in the cast, said Miller. “We have one of the most vocally gifted ensembles—and they’re dancing pretty well! And in this show, as it is an old-fashioned-style show, we have every dance genre that you can imagine. We tap dance. We waltz. We have a ballet. We have just the regular contemporary musical-theater skittering across stage. So the audience gets to see a little bit of everything.”
Audiences will even see a horse onstage, used to pull the tram, said Chyrel Miller. “They have named the horse ‘The Death of Me’… it is now ready for the Kentucky Derby with its official name!”
It is, apparently, unofficial Little Theatre policy that, whenever Kim Crosby stars in an LT show, the box office adds an extra performance because of the anticipated heavy ticket demand. The show opens on a Friday night, February 7th at 7:30pm; and in addition to the usual Thursday-through-Saturday 7:30pm curtains and 2:30pm Sunday matinee, there’s a single Saturday matinee at 2:30pm on Feb.22, the day before the production closes. Chyrel Miller urges theater fans to get their tickets for “Hello, Dolly!”, noting that Kim Crosby’s Dolly “is so delightful that to miss her performances would be heart-rending.” There will be a special Valentine show on (Friday) the 14th. That evening roses will be provided to the women in the audience, as well as complementary drinks from The Order in the Hotel Vandivort, next door to the Landers.
Tickets range from $20-$32 (plus a $3-per-ticket processing fee) and are available at the Landers Box Office, 869-1334 or at https://www.springfieldlittletheatre.org.