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New Scotland Archives The Altamont Enterprise, March 24, 2011
Hello, Dolly! still going strong
By Saranac Hale Spencer
VOORHEESVILLE The cheerful veneer of Hello, Dolly! keeps the mood light through the musical’s sober undertones on the high school stage.
The Dionysians are performing the 1960s Broadway hit that follows the turn-of-the-century matchmaker, Dolly Gallagher Levi, as she meddles with young hearts and comes to terms with the death of her husband.
“There is a wonderfully serious plot… that they can really sink their teeth into,” Director Robert Whiteman said of the high school students, who told him that they prefer musicals with a note of gravity and big, group numbers. That was the criteria that led him to choose Hello, Dolly! for the drama club’s spring performance.
“I have a soft spot for Dolly,” he said, explaining that the character embodies the duality of the human psyche. She appears to be in control, he said, fixing other people’s problems, because that’s what she lets people see, while, “in reality, she’s really quietly suffering herself.”
Dolly, played by senior Justina Miranda, has several soliloquies in which she speaks to her recently deceased husband.
“As much as it’s a musical comedy, there are serious moments,” Miranda said. Of conveying her character’s emotions to the audience, she said, “I know what it’s like,” there comes a point in people’s lives when they have to move on and rejoin the world. Central to the play is Dolly’s path to rejoining the world.
Seeing that kind of struggle is good for kids, Whiteman said, because it shows them that people recover the character finds a goal again.
Becoming Dolly has changed her gestures and habits off the stage, said Miranda, who stands straighter after learning the part.
The girls have been rehearsing in crinoline skirts, heels, and hats, said the play’s producer, Portia Hubert, so they’d be used to moving in period attire.
The girls swish across the stage in a varied palette in front a backdrop painted from a postcard that Whiteman found in New York City a cityscape in a mellow wash. The drama club is using the stage’s system for lowering backdrops, with period millinery advertisements making an appearance.
To put on a play set at the start of the 20th Century, members of the drama club did a lot of research, Whiteman said. He wanted them to understand the culture of the time so that they’d understand how people would react to a woman like Dolly, who has a strong point of view.
Although monumental changes in the place of women in society were taking root, with the women’s suffrage movement building, there was still a defined role that they were expected to play. That context is important for understanding the humor of the play, said Whiteman.
“What I want people to come away with, is just the experience of having a good time,” Hubert said. One of her favorite scenes includes the song Put on Your Sunday Clothes, she said, explaining that the idea of it is, “Put on your Sunday clothes when you’re feeling down and out,” which is similar to the play, she said, since it lifts your spirits for a little while.
Hello, Dolly! will be performed on Friday and Saturday, March 25 and 26, at 7:15 p.m. in the Lydia Tobler Performing Arts Center at 432 New Salem Rd. It will also be performed on Sunday, March 27, at 2:15 p.m. Tickets are $10 for adults and $8 for children and senior citizens.