REVIEW: Hello Dolly (Light Opera Works)


Phenomenal dancing and singing makes ‘Dolly’ a New Year’s treat 


Mary Robin Roth (Dolly Gallagher Levi) in Hello Dolly – Light Opera Works. Photo Credit: Rich Foreman

Light Opera Works presents
Hello, Dolly! 
Book by Michael Stewart
Music/Lyrics by
Jerry Herman
Directed by
Rudy Hogenmiller
Cahn Auditorium, 600 Emerson, Evanston (map)
through Jan 1  |  tickets: $32-$92   |  more info

Reviewed by Katy Walsh

“Some people paint, I meddle.”  A widow makes a living as a matchmaker.   Light Opera Works presents Jerry Herman’s Hello, Dolly!, a big-hearted musical based on Thornton Wilder’s play The Matchmaker, set in 1890.

Before the parade passes by, I want to get in step while there’s still time left.” Dolly Levi wants to start living.

Dolly’s retirement plan is to marry the well-known half-millionaire, Horace Vandergelder.  Because Dolly is very good at her job, Horace IS ready to marry… Irene Malloy. Before Horace can pop the question to Irene, Dolly must strike the match.  It’s a hilarious intervention as Dolly rearranges multiple lives to marry off herself.    Hello, Dolly! is a witty, musical frolic wedded to the courtship dance.

You’re looking swell Dolly.  I can tell Dolly. You’re still glowin’, you’re still crowin’, you’re still goin’ strong. 

Mary Robin Roth (Dolly Gallagher Levi), Peter Verdico (Horace Vandergelder) star in Hello Dolly - Light Opera Works  Photo Credit: Rich ForemanMary Robin Roth (Dolly) has flawless comedic timing.  Roth delivers zesty lines with a side of slapstick, and has all the personality to anchor the show in the title role.  The musical orchestration has been adjusted for Roth’s limited singing range; her lower vocal style is robust but in moments awkward.  In solo numbers, it’s a unique rendition, but when she joins in on a brightly sung ‘Put on Your Sunday Clothes,’ Roth creates a bit of speed bump.

The best match of the show is the chemistry between Robert Brady (Cornelius) and Patrick Tierney (Barnaby).  The dynamic duo sing, dance and lampoon with charm and amusing absurdity.   Although Jessye Wright (Irene) has a beautifully operatic singing voice, it’s too serious for the light-hearted romp.  It really only works as the parody line Wright sings in ‘Elegance’ to make fun of the sophisticated.

A 22-piece orchestra, conducted by Roger L. Bingaman, sets the tempo for a splendid full-bodied musical chorus.

‘Don’t you think my dancing has a polish and a flare?  The word I think I’d use is athletic!’

The dancing IS athletic and amazing!   Rudy Hogenmiller channels Gower Champion to choreograph dance sequences that elicit applause DURING the movement.  In particular, two memorable moments are actualized by a large segment of the chorus.  First, in the parade scene, the band moves into a revolving kick line.  For a small stage and multiple dancers, the graceful high-kick turning is incredibly impressive.  In the second act, the waiters have a vigorous prolonged dance sequence.  The word I think I’d use is ‘phenomenal.’    The synchronization is perfection.  The waiters’ jumps are a harmonious spectacle.

Despite promises that ‘Dolly’ll never go away again,’ it’ll be “Goodbye, Dolly!” in a week.    So, here’s your goal again,  get in drive again, if you wanna feel your heart coming alive again… get your tickets now… before the parade, and the full orchestra, passes by!

Rating: ★★★½

Hello, Dolly! continues performances on December 27th, 29th, January 2nd at 2pm;
December 28th at 7pm; December 30th, 31st, January 1st at 8pm. All photos by Rich Foreman.

Running Time:  Two hours and thirty-five minutes includes an intermission.

Robert Brady (Cornelius Hackl), Patrick Tierney (Barnaby Tucker), star in Light Opera Works’ HELLO, DOLLY!, December 26, 2010- January 2, 2011 at the Cahn Auditorium in Evanston, IL. Photo Credit: Rich Foreman





Production Team

  Director/Choreographer: Rudy Hogenmiller  
  Music Director: Roger L. Bingaman  
  Scenic Design: Tom Burch   
  Costume Design: Emily Nelson  
  Hair and Make-Up: Marvin Riebe  
  Light Design: Charles Jolls  
  Sound Design: Miles Polaski  
  Prop Design: Deborah Lindell and Mealah Heidenreich,  
  Stage Manager: Anya Plotkin  
  Production Manager: Paige Keedy  


  Mary Robin Roth* Dolly Gallagher Levi  
  Peter Verdico Horace Vandergelder  
  Jessye Wright Irene Molloy  
  Robert Brady Cornelius Hackl  
  Danielle Plisz Minnie Fay  
  Patrick Tierney Barnaby Tucker  


  Marshall Back, Erica Bittner, Nathan Carroll, Bryan Conner (Ambrose understudy), Peter Durkin, Kara Edmark, Brendan Foley, Jody Goldman (Dolly u/s), Bobby Johnson, Rachel Klippel (Minnie Fay u/s), Mark Kosten (Barnaby u/s), Jonathan Kwock, Mark LeBeau, Jr. (Cornelius u/s), Kirsten Lendyke (Ermengarde u/s), Emilie Lynn (Irene u/s), Ben Mason, Jennifer Oakley, Amy Orman, Keith Richards, Daniel Spagnuolo, David Whitlock (Horace u/s)

*Appears courtesy of Actors’ Equity Association


Director/Music Director Biographies

Rudy Hogenmiller (Director and Choreographer) has directed and choreographed many productions for the company including MY FAIR LADY, THE YEOMEN OF THE GUARD, A LITTLE NIGHT MUSIC, THE PIRATES OF PENZANCE, KISS ME, KATE, SOUTH PACIFIC, THE MIKADO and THE SOUND OF MUSIC. He has been recognized with six Joseph Jefferson Awards and 17 nominations for best direction and choreography in Chicago. Hogenmiller has been a member of the Society of Stage Directors and Choreographers for more than 25 years.

Roger L. Bingaman (Music Director) conducts the 24-piece orchestra. Bingaman made his first appearance on the Light Opera Works podium in 1997, conducting THE MERRY WIDOW. Since then he has conducted many Light Opera Works productions, including this season’s CAROUSEL, THE YEOMEN OF THE GUARD and I DO! I DO!, as well as BEAUTIFUL HELEN OF TROY, THE STUDENT PRINCE, SWEETHEARTS, NO WAY TO TREAT A LADY, SOUTH PACIFIC, 110 IN THE SHADE, KISS ME, KATE, BITTER SWEET, OKLAHOMA!, GIGI, IOLANTHE,THE MUSIC MAN, A LITTLE NIGHT MUSIC, MY FAIR LADY, and THE PIRATES OF PENZANCE. Bingaman has been director of the apprentice program and chorus master for the Sarasota Opera since 1998.

Cast Biographies

Mary Robin Roth (Dolly Gallagher Levi) was last seen at Light Opera Works playing five different characters in NO WAY TO TREAT A LADY. Since then she has "taken her veil on the road" as Sister Robert Anne in productions of NUNSENSE (with Cindy Williams), NUNSENSE 2 (with Marcia Wallace), and NUNSENSATIONS (with Georgia Engel). Regional credits include THE FULL MONTY (Jeanette) and CABARET (Fraulein Schneider) at Mason Street Warehouse in Saugatuck, Michigan, GYPSY (Mama Rose) and ANNIE (Miss Hannigan) at Arkansas Repertory Theatre, and FUNNY GIRL (Fanny) at Beef and Boards Dinner Theatre in Indianapolis. Favorite Chicago roles include the title role in MAME and Carlotta in FOLLIES (Jeff Award, After Dark Award), both at Drury Lane Oakbrook. She performed at the Tony Awards in 1987, and for President Reagan at Ford’s Theater in Washington, D.C.  Appearances on Broadway include THE MYSTERY OF EDWIN DROOD and SENATOR JOE, and her touring credits include the national and international companies of EVITA and the Toronto company of SUNSET BOULEVARD.

Mary Robin Roth (Dolly Gallagher Levi), Robert Brady (Cornelius Hackl), Patrick Tierney (Barnaby Tucker), star in Light Opera Works’ HELLO, DOLLY!, December 26, 2010- January 2, 2011 at the Cahn Auditorium in Evanston, IL. Photo Credit: Rich ForemanPeter Verdico (Horace Vandergelder) appeared at Light Opera Works in CARNIVAL!, SOUTH PACIFIC, KISS ME, KATE, GIGI and THE MUSIC MAN. He was recently seen in Promethean Theatre‘s THE FANTASTICKS, and LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS with La costa Theatre. Recent credits include BAREFOOT IN THE PARK with Metropolis Theater, LA CAGE AUX FOLLES with Night Blue Theatre, and GYPSY with Stage Right Productions.His favorite roles include Tevye in FIDDLER ON THE ROOF, Julian Marsh in 42ND STREET, Carroll Todd in VICTOR/VICTORIA, Tito Merelli in LEND ME A TENOR, George Hay in MOON OVER BUFFALO, Juror #3 in TWELVE ANGRY MEN and Harry Brock in BORN YESTERDAY.

Jessye Wright (Irene Molloy) appeared with Light Opera Works as Charlotte in A LITTLE NIGHT MUSIC, Manon in BITTER SWEET and in the title role of IOLANTHE. She appeared as soloist in Mozart’s REQUIEM in Lincoln Center’s Avery Fisher Hall, as Meg Page in FALSTAFF in Castres, France, Mozart’s MESSIAH at Carnegie Hall, in the title role in CARMEN at Ravinia Music Festival with Opera Theater North, as Pitti-Sing in THE MIKADO with Nashville Opera, and as alto soloist with Chicago’s Music of the Baroque under Jane Glover. A past national semi-finalist in the Metropolitan Opera Council Auditions, Jessye received the Ardis Krainik Memorial Prize in Voice from Chicago’s National Bel Canto Foundation and won 2nd place in the 2005 International Classical Singer Competition.

Robert Brady (Cornelius Hackl) was seen this season with Light Opera Works as Sir Richard Cholmondeley in THE YEOMEN OF THE GUARD and in the ensemble of CAROUSEL; he also understudied the role of Michael in I DO! I DO! Previously, he was Samuel in the 2009 THE PIRATES OF PENZANCE, and appeared in CANDIDE, DIE FLEDERMAUS, and the 2002 THE PIRATES OF PENZANCE. A California native, he is a graduate of the Pacific Conservatory of Performing Arts. He has performed professionally for 17 years, working for such companies as Fairfield Civic Theater, Vallejo Civic Theater, Sacramento Music Circus, the Great American Melodrama and Vaudeville and Royal Caribbean International. Locally, he has appeared with First Folio Theatre.

Danielle Plisz (Minnie Fay) returns to Light Opera Works, where she was seen as Bianca in KISS ME, KATE. Other Chicago credits include A CHORUS LINE and HAIRSPRAY (Marriott Theatre), SUGAR (Drury Lane Oakbrook), GIRLS VS. BOYS (The House Theatre of Chicago), THE TAFFETAS (Noble Fool Theatricals), and MAME (Drury Lane Oakbrook). Her regional credits include Anita in WEST SIDE STORY, Louise in GYPSY and Julie in SHOW BOAT. She was a featured singer on Tokyo Disney Sea and Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines.

Patrick Tierney (Barnaby Tucker) returns to Light Opera Works after appearing in the cockney quartet in last season’s MY FAIR LADY. Other Chicago area credits include: Leaf Coneybear in THE 25TH ANNUAL PUTNAM COUNTY SPELLING BEE at the Metropolis Performing Arts Centre, Danny in BABY with Actors Theatre Company, The Barber in MAN OF LA MANCHA at Theatre at the Center, and Jean-Michel in LA CAGE AUX FOLLES with Bohemian Theatre Ensemble. This summer, Patrick was chosen by Chicago Tribune critic Chris Jones as one of 2010’s "Hot New Faces" in Chicago theater.


Mary Robin Roth (Dolly) in Hello Dolly – Light Opera Works. Photo Credit Rich Foreman

Mary Robin Roth as Dolly Gallagher Levi


Judy sings with Liza at the London Palladium (ignore annoying ad at top of video)


One Response

  1. My parents saw the first Hello Dolly ever with Carol Channing in Detroit’s Fisher Theater, after we lost President Kennedy. JFK loved Carol. I was 5 years old, but I remember it well. I saw Carol in the revival in 1996, and was blown away. This is the greatest American play ever! L.O.W. deserves credit for sticking with the original David Merrick production. I wish Carol, (fit at 90), could have enjoyed the performance. The hat shop scene of Irene Malloy, my favorite because of the romance. Jerry Herman is a genius. Some of his lyrics are even a little risque. You cannot imagine the surging emotion in our hearts, and the standing ovations you deserve. Take the show on the road, and let Carol see what she started. The cast, the dancers, the orchestra, the swishy dresses – all Splendid! Selling the original album at the door, would have caused a tear in Carol’s eye. I know you have her blessing, because she advocates support of the arts. I wish I could go to a Hello Dolly museum, and view artifacts of the original and all amatuer performances, (or join a club). Trivia: part of the Hello Dolly score, was written in the Motor City, not tin-pan alley, as the play was refined there. FACT! God Bless Carol Channing, and all who follow in her noble footsteps. I really enjoyed a great show! (I’ll be wearing ribbons down my back this summer / Hold on to her tight and spin / We’ll find adventure in the evening air)! Excuse me while I cry!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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