The first review is out – HELLO DOLLY! is not-to-be missed!

HELLO DOLLY! has just arrived at PlazaCo, and will only be playing until June 18th, so time is running out. Please, PLEASE get your tickets soon as demand is starting to exceed availability. Read this wonderful review of the show from The Star Group by Paul Gnadt for more details about the show.

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Published by The Star Group, production reviewed on Thursday, May 26th by Paul Gnadt

It doesn’t matter how many times you saw the film version starring Barbra Streisand, or if you attended one of its 2,844 live performances on Broadway, most of which starred Carol Channing, you will still enjoy the Plaza Theatre Company’s entertaining version of “Hello, Dolly!” playing through June 18 at the Plaza Theatre in Cleburne.

This is one where the behind-the-scenes talent, the on-stage actors and the intimate 160-seat theater-in-the-round can take equal credit for bringing out the best in this classic musical comedy.

Costume designer Kara Barnes has assembled an array of dazzling colors with which to adorn the ensemble, who choreographer Jill Baker has twirling and twisting in a series of dance numbers that require precise timing and the fitness level of a long-distance runner.

It’s amazing how a dozen dancers can make it appear like a score or more are scurrying back and forth, especially in the opening number and in the “Waiters Gallop” at the busy Harmonica Gardens Restaurant, where the wait staff almost catches their breath long enough to belt out the show’s signature song, “Hello, Dolly,” made so popular by Louis Armstrong in 1964 that it knocked the Beatles from the top spot on the pop chart after they had occupied that position for 14 consecutive weeks with three different songs.

The JaceSon Barrus and Parker Barrus-designed sets are Plaza’s come-to-be-expected clever in their simplicity, as are the props designed by Milette Siler, who uses a barrel and broom in one corner and a cash register in another to represent a hay and feed store, and a table with a hat on it becomes a fancy hat shop. Perhaps it’s simplicity out of necessity  because Siler is too busy with her role as Irene Molloy, proprietress of the hat shop where some of the story takes place.

Molloy’s role is double cast with Daron Cockerell, but it was played by Siler on the night I attended. Either way, both have outstanding voices — as Cockerell proved in the lead role in PTC’s recent production of “Annie Get Your Gun” — as does Jonathan Metting, who plays feed store clerk Cornelius Hackl, who falls for Molloy.

Rest assured, the interchangeable Plaza regulars — even if we see them only occasionally such as Solomon Abah, Burleson’s Stacy Blanton, Andrew Guzman and Annalee Herron — are there, but it’s two newcomers to the Plaza stage who are the show’s centerpiece: Susan Metzger and Burleson’s Kristin Spires, double cast as Dolly.

Spires, who is also the show’s musical director and who played Dolly in the performance I attended, has a daytime job as — to no one’s surprise — a voice professor in the theatre department at Texas Wesleyan University.

Hello, Kristin and welcome to the Plaza where you belong. This lady can sing.

The story originally came from a 1835 play by John Oxenford titled “A Day Well Spent.” In 1938, Thornton Wilder rewrote the material in a farce titled “The Merchant of Yonkers,” which he revised and retitled in 1955 as “The Matchmaker.” This became the basis for the musical.

“Hello, Dolly!” is about Dolly Gallagher Levi, a meddling widow in Yonkers, N.Y., in 1880, who poses as a matchmaker on the premise of arranging a marriage between the “half-a-millionaire” Horace Vandergelder (Cleburne’s Gerard Elementary School principal Jay Lewis), and an heiress he is to meet in New York City.

The pompous Vandergelder isn’t really looking for love. Instead, he thinks, “The best way to bet a built-in housekeeper is to marry one,” he says.

However, Dolly has every intention of marrying Horace herself and sending his money circulating among the people, the way her late husband, Ephraim Levi, taught her, because, as Dolly quotes Ephraim, “Money, pardon the expression, is like manure. It’s not worth a thing unless it’s spread around encouraging young things to grow.”

Dolly follows Vandergelder to his store in Yonkers, where she arranges for his weeping niece, Ermengarde (double cast with Scout Harrell and Annalee Herron), her fiancé, (double cast with Andrew Guzman and Daniel Scott Robinson) and Vandergelder’s two young store clerks to go off for a New York adventure.

They take the train back to Molloy’s hat shop in New York, hit the streets for the Fourteenth Street Association Parade, and finally to the most expensive restaurant in town where the staff greet her with one of the most famous songs in the history of Broadway and movie musicals.

Along the way Dolly succeeds in matching up Molloy with Vandergelder’s head clerk, Cornelius Hackl; his assistant, Barnaby Tucker, with Molloy’s assistant, Minnie Fay; and Kemper with Ermengarde.

The two clerks — Hackl, played by Metting, and Tucker, double cast with Michael Sylvester and Stephen Singleton in the show I attended — have a lot of stage time and interact nicely, with Metting doing most of the singing and Singleton doing most of the dancing, including Olympic-style back flips and high kicks.

The main characters and the ensemble, whose members include Alvarado’s Devlin Pollock and Burleson’s Julia Ekpo, Kasi Hollowell and Drew Sifford, present many songs you will be familiar with, including “Put on Your Sunday Clothes,” “Ribbons Down my Back,” “Before the Parade Passes By,” “Elegance,” and “It Only Takes a Moment.”

With state management by Stefanie Glenn, light design by Cameron Barrus, and sound design by G. Aaron Siler, “Hello, Dolly!” — the 44th show presented by the PTC since it opened in November 2006 — is a good one.

See it.

“Hello, Dolly!” plays at 7:30 p.m. Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays and at 3 p.m. Saturdays through June 18 at the Plaza Theatre, 111. S. Main St., in Cleburne.

Tickets — $15 for adults, $13 for students and seniors age 65 and older, and $12 for children age 12 and younger — are on sale 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday-Saturday at the Plaza box office or by calling 817-202-0600.

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