Anyone planning to go see the Nottingham Operatic Society’s Hello, Dolly! at the Nottingham Playhouse this weekend is certainly in for a treat. Opening on Broadway in 1964 to a slew of praise and Tony Awards, Hello, Dolly! follows a day in the life of a widowed matchmaker, Dolly Levi, and the characters she’s decided to help find happiness, whether they want it or not.
The main characters are all wonderful and very memorable; Kate Williams as Dolly in particular is a delight and a credit to the famous Dolly’s of old, with all the charm the cheek and the wit needed for this larger than life character. Horace Vandergelder, as played by Simon Theobold, is a grumpy pleasure who huffed and puffed his way through the play with the right amount of mean eccentricity without falling into melodrama.
Barnaby (Rob Palin) and Cornelius (Mark Pollard) are a great double act, with all of Cornelius’ anxieties being portrayed sweetly and sympathetically adding genuine empathy to his bumbling desire to find life and love. What we saw of Barnaby was also lovely – adding both comedy and innocence to the mix – but more could have been made of him and his character. Similarly Alice Hands’ Minnie was adorable and memorable, and made the most of every line given to her and it was a shame we did not see more of her or her interaction with Irene Malloy.
Irene was an excellent counterpart to the iridescent Dolly and in a show where everyone knew and admired the main character actually came across as her friend. Despite being often overshadowed in productions of Hello, Dolly! by other, more eccentric characters, Irene is actually one of the more interesting characters because, whilst she is sweet, there are arguably more variations as to how to play her. Whilst I usually prefer a more wistful approach for the character, so as to add depth as someone wanting more from life and mourning lost love, Sarah Warnsby‘s lust for life portrayal was a nice take on the character and worked well with the comically panicked Minnie.
The chorus were all also excellent, adding colour and personality to the ensemble parts. The singing was, on the whole, exceptional for everyone, and the Nottingham Operatic Society certainly deserve their name and a reputation for excellence! If I have one criticism, it’s that the dancing was slightly stilted and not entirely in-sync at times, however it was not enough to detract from the overall performance, or the exceptional quality.
The Scenic Project’s set was a spectacle in itself, with fold out and push out sections that were beautifully painted if slightly two dimensional. However this gave an old-fashioned stage atmosphere that works well with this old-fashioned musical and the sheer enormity of the puzzle-piece like set-up was very impressive and the lighting designer Tom Mowat worked very well with this clever, dollshouse-esque presentation.
The costumes from Triple C were similarly sumptuous, with great variations even amongst the chorus, leading to different personalities and characters emerging even without lines or solos. They were also very period appropriate and added a very professional air to the whole performance. A final polish to an already excellent night.