One of Ozark Actors Theatre’s (OAT) favorite pastimes is taking a classic musical and making it fresh and new for their audience, and their recent production of “Hello Dolly!” stays true to this trend.
The show is directed by Larissa Klinger, who previously spent her OAT career on the stage, appearing in last summer’s production of “I Do! I Do!”. This year she’s sitting in the director’s chair and bringing her vision of “Hello Dolly!” to life.
“It’s everything a musical should be,” she said before the opening night curtain rose.
Another OAT tradition is bringing in talented actors to fill their shows, and “Hello Dolly!” has it’s share. The titular character, Dolly Levi, is played by Sarah Keelman, who appears through an agreement between OAT, the Actor’s Equity Association, and the Union of Professional Actors and Stage Managers in the United States, along with Adam Roberts, who plays Cornelius Hack.
Keelman easily steals the show whenever she is onstage. From the way she carries herself down the stairs or with her powerhouse singing voice, Keelman draws everyone’s attention without upstaging the rest of the cast. She is both subtle and effective, and audience members will always be waiting for her next number to start.
Her counterpart, the curmudgeonly Horace Vandergelder, played by Joel Stigliano, who despite playing a harsh, miserly widower, succeeds in making the audience fall in love with him.
Roberts, mentioned above, along with OAT returner Nicholas Reese, play Vandergeler’s shop boys Cornelius Hackl and Barnaby Tucker, the charming comic relief of the show. The pair is given much of the more difficult solo choreography, and they rise to the occasion in perfect sync. In last year’s production of “Footloose,” Reese proved he was skilled with physical comedy, and he did so again this year, and Roberts matched him step for step. The pair also charmed more than their onstage companions with their singing voices.
Hollyn Gayle, also returning from “Footloose,” and Erin Long, play the love interests for the two gentlemen, and are lovely in their own right. Long singing about ribbons falling down her back will have audience members sighing in content all on her own while Gayle provides a cheerful ambience throughout the show.
The rest of the cast is filled with talented members as well, including Lianna Klinger, who plays Ernestina, and Rolla High School’s Kelly Brown as Ambrose. The ensemble shows off their own in-depth choreography and nail some particular vocal harmonies regularly throughout the show.
All in all, OAT’s production of “Hello Dolly!” is a great start to their season, with new and familiar faces ready to make sure you have a good time at the Cedar Street Playhouse.