You're Still Goin' Strong

I love regional theaters and I love road trips. So every summer I try to hit the road one or more times to see regional theater in the Northeast. On a recent Sunday, I traveled to Goodspeed Musicals, the Tony Award winning regional theater celebrating its 50th anniversary, to take in a small in-development musical (which I cannot write about) and the company's revival of Hello, Dolly!.

I have seen a half-dozen Hello, Dolly! productions over the years. The one that sticks in my mind most is the Paper Mill Playhouse production with Tovah Feldshuh, mostly because of her thick Irish brogue, which represented a bizarre character choice. Last week Michael Riedel broke news that Kristin Chenoweth is in talks for a Broadway revival. Like Mame, every few years I hear about a revival of Hello, Dolly!. To me, out of the two of them, Mame is a more satisfying show. Both of them need a charismatic ticket seller at their center so both of them are risky propositions.

Hello, Dolly! in my mind is somehow able to handle more interpretations than Mame. I've seen lighthearted, giddy Dollys and more overtly conniving Dollys. In First Date there is even a joke about Zachary Levi's character playing Dolly in high school! Klea Blackhurst is giving a great performance as Dolly; she's a more natural Dolly. Eschewing many of the grand gestures associated with the character, Blackhurst is an every-woman Dolly. I also enjoyed Ashley Brown's Irene Molloy. I did not love Tony Sheldon as much as I did in Priscilla Queen of the Desert -- or perhaps it is more accurate to say I did not love his interpretation of his character. His Horace Vandergelder is more lovable than the previous Vandergelders I've seen, and playing him that way makes the entire thing less extreme. But that is a minor qualm with a solid and entertaining revival.

I encourage you to get to Goodspeed one day, if you've never been. It's fairly far from the city (about two-and-a-half hours), so try to plan a weekend around it if you can. Enjoy the beautiful surroundings by packing a picnic. Maybe visit another Connecticut theater as well or just walk around the cute towns. It's a nice weekend if you can spare the time. You might even feel back where you belong.