By ANDREA BUGBEE
EAST HADDAM, Conn. – Scarcely more than an hour south of Greater Westfield beckons the big, Broadway feel of the 1964 Tony Award winning musical, “Hello Dolly.” This adaptation, brought to area audiences through the Goodspeed Opera House in East Haddam, Conn., reincarnates the sensational sparkle, glitz, and sound that superstars Carol Channing, Ethel Merman, and Pearl Bailey brought to this quintessentially American musical decades ago.
On stage now, Wednesdays through Sundays until September 14, “Hello Dolly” is the theater adaptation of Thorton Wilder’s “The Matchmaker,” with music and lyrics by Jerry Herman. Set at the turn of the twentieth century, this play tells the story of the meddlesome Dolly Levi, a matchmaker who connives to arrange her own marriage to “half a millionaire” Horace Vandergelder.
Known throughout southern New England for its mission to preserve and produce quality musical theater, the Goodspeed Opera House is a stunning 1876 theater overlooking a scenic stretch of the Connecticut River in East Haddam, Conn. and is, in itself, worthy of a day trip. An adjacent riverside park is perfect for pre-play picnicking, though there are also restaurants within walking distance of the opera house.
Those looking for a full day adventure may also enjoy tours of the historic Goodspeed theater, which has grown into an artistic enclave consisting of a main stage theater, an experimental theater, a scene shop, paint shop, prop shop, costume shop, rehearsal studio, musical theater library, and a 22-home artists village.
Other attractions include nearby Gilette Castle, scenic boat tours along the Connecticut River on the Lady Katharine, and special “Meet the Cast” events to be held on July 25, August 8, and August 22.
Charming, uplifting, and appealing to audiences of all ages, Goodspeed’s “Hello Dolly” boasts a Broadway-style presentation in an intimate, period theater. A live orchestra, masterful dancing and choreography, delightful costumes, ingenious set and light design, and a spot-on ensemble lend this performance big-city finesse at a highly affordable price (tickets begin at $27, and no seats beg binoculars to enjoy the show).
Other stand-outs of this bold, showy, show-of-all-shows include Ashley Brown (original title role in Broadway’s “Mary Poppins”) singing “Ribbons Down My Back” as Mrs. Malloy; Tony Sheldon, Spencer Moses, and Jeremy Morse singing “It Takes a Woman” as Horace, Cornelius, and Barnaby; and the ensemble’s energy and seamless dance precision in numbers including the “Waiter’s Gallop,” and, of course, the rousingly famous “Hello Dolly.”
“Hello Dolly” will be performed Wednesdays at 2 and 7:30 p.m.; Thursdays at 2 and 7:30 p.m.; Fridays at 8 p.m.; Saturdays at 3 and 8 p.m.; and Sundays at 2 p.m. now through September 14. For tickets and more information, call the Goodspeed box office at (860) 873-8668, or visit the Goodspeed Opera House on line at www.goodspeed.org.
By ANDREA BUGBEE