Hello, Dolly!

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It seems to be a trend lately: decent theater productions made even more decent by one fantastic performer.

The Villa Playhouse’s “Sound of Music” got an extra boost from Lauralyn Lowe as Maria. Little London’s “Noises Off,” already a terrific show, was sent through the roof by Brett Merritt as Garry. And now the SCERA’s “Hello, Dolly!” becomes wonderful thanks to Marcie Jacobsen, who plays Dolly as a genteel, red-headed fireball who deserves the exclamation mark the show’s author attached to its title.

Dolly, a widow, is a professional meddler in 1890s New York. Though she masks it with aplomb and polite sassiness, she misses her husband very much. She plans to marry again, not for love, but for money, which she plans to spread around.

The object of her non-affection is Horace Vandergelder (Doyle Mortimer), a wound-up rich man who owns a feed store. He’s got his sights set on Irene Molloy (Lorena Perry), though Dolly the matchmaker has gone from helping to hindering that endeavor.

It’s one of those simple old musical stories whose entertaining script (by Michael Stewart, based on a Thornton Wilder play) makes you forget how predictable and uncomplicated it is. It’s an older musical comedy whose dialogue and lyrics are actually funny, and not just quaint. (The prerecorded orchestrations used here, which clearly do not make use of the realistic-sounding synthesizers currently on the market, do the fine Jerry Herman score a disservice.)

Marcie Jacobsen is entirely too fabulous to be a mortal; anyone with information as to her actual origins is invited to tell the rest of us. She sings beautifully, has comic timing and imbues Dolly Gallagher Levi with class, humor and an effective touch of realism.

Much of her supporting cast is a hoot, too. Craig Whetten grows on you as Barnaby, the open-mouthed clown who works for Horace, and Melody Clinger’s chirpy Minnie Fay (Mrs. Molloy’s employee) is one of the funniest characterizations I’ve seen this year. The two make a good pair, and their “Elegance” song — with Mrs. Molloy and Barnaby’s friend Cornelius (Scott Montgomery) — is both charming and funny.

As the old-fashioned (i.e., sexist) Horace Vandergelder, Doyle Mortimer is amusingly blustery. He is often overdone, though, with perhaps a bit too much of the shouting and the stomping around. He’s matched for feel-good enthusiasm, though, by the large cast of waiters, townspeople and socialites. It’s quintessential outdoor summer theater: light, airy and toe-tapping.

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