During my many years of reviewing shows, I have seen numerous professional, community theatre and educational productions of “Hello Dolly!” with some more successful than others. Happily, the one running now at Beef & Boards Dinner Theatre is among the best. Playing until May 15, I saw the show alongside a packed house in the 450-seat theatre on Sunday evening.
“Hello Dolly!” with lyrics and music by Jerry Herman and book by Michael Stewart premiered on Broadway in 1964 and was later made into a film starring Barbra Streisand in 1969. The story is based on Thornton Wilder’s 1938 play, “The Merchant of Yonkers,” which he re-titled “The Matchmaker” in 1955. The musical, set at the turn of the century, tells the story of Dolly Levi, an aggressive matchmaker and professional meddler who travels to Yonkers, New York to find a match for skinflint Horace Vandergelder, a cantankerous and wealthy merchant seeking a wife
Directed by Eddie Curry, one of Indy’s better directors, the Beef & Boards production stars Suzanne Stark, as Dolly. Joining her in the cast are Ty Stover as Vandergelder, David Schmittou as Cornelius Hackl, Grace Morgan as Irene Malloy, Amanda McCarthy as Ermengarde, Jon Rose as Ambrose Kemper, David Buergler as Barnaby Tucker, Shelbi Berry as Minnie Fey, and a chorus of seven accomplished actor-singer-dancers.
Stark, a fine character actor who can always be depended upon to turn in a vibrant performance, once again shines here as irrepressible opportunist Dolly, who lives her life to the fullest. Ty Stover excelled as the curmudgeonly, tyrannical Horace Vandergelder, whose rigidity is his own worst enemy. Also standing out were Schmittou as enthusiastic, unspoiled and adventurous Cornelius Hackl, and Buergler, as his sidekick Barnaby Tucker, who is kind, innocent and energetic.
Impressive, as usual, was Ron Morgan’s choreography, a nod to original creator Gower Champion, with the dancing effortlessly executed by the versatile cast. Also, as usual, the five-piece orchestra led by music director Kristy Templet sounded bigger than it actually was interpreting Herman’s timeless score.
Finally, it bears repeating that Beef & Board’s technical team is one of the most creative in these parts. Go-to lighting designer Ryan Koharchik, scenic design Michael Layton, costume designer Amy Gaton, and sound designer Daniel Hesselbrock all deserve kudos for their contributions to “Hello Dolly!”
With its themes of love and wealth versus poverty, “Hello Dolly!” may be an old chestnut, but owing to its wholesome humor and appealing, romantic score, it still holds up quite well. And, as for pure escapism, not to a mention a wonderfully tasty buffet dinner, you simply can’t go wrong if you are looking for this singular form of family-friendly entertainment. Nearly 50 years old, there are few establishments like it left in this country that do it as spectacularly as Beef & Boards.
WHERE: Beef & Boards Dinner Theatre 9301 Michigan Rd., Indianapolis, 4626
TICKETS: Available at beefandboards.com or by calling the box office 317.872.9664 (closed Mondays). Tickets range from $51 to $76 and include the Beef & Boards dinner buffet, fruit & salad bar, and select beverages. Parking is free
WEB SITE: For more information or show schedule, visit beefandboards.com.