Arts & Leisure

“Dolly” shows its “meddle” at the Gem

ADRIANA SANCHEZ stars in “Hello Dolly!” now on stage at the Gem Theater in Garden Grove (OMP photo).

By Thom deMartino

She’s the one you go to, when you’ve got marriage on the mind.

“Hello, Dolly” has just begun its run at the Gem Theater in Garden Grove: it’s the dawn of the 20th century, and the audience is introduced to the rambunctious and renowned Dolly Gallagher Levi (Adriana Sanchez), the local matchmaker — vivacious and brash, who speaks her mind in no uncertain terms — and who is the very best at what she does.

“Some people paint, some sew – I meddle!” she proclaims to one prospective customer. She’s also a woman who wears many hats, both literally and figuratively: as her varied business cards declare, Dolly also serves as a dance instructor, a musical instructor – as well as being involved in myriad other sidelines. But though she’s arranging the happiness of her clients, the widow does have her own dreams to – perhaps – love again… but only if she feels she’s gained the blessing of her beloved late husband, Ephram.

Tasked with arranging the marriage of the cranky and temperamental “half-a-millionaire” Horace Vandergelder (Tim Klega), Dolly begins sowing doubts in his mind about wedding the young widow and hat shop owner, Irene Malloy (Erika Baldwin.) She instead suggests that she knows an heiress who may be interested in him – and if that somehow doesn’t pan out, she has one more possible name on her short list of candidates… “a name I know as well as my own”, she slyly proclaims.

Meanwhile, other players have been set in motion, each with their own dreams of love and marriage: the artist Ambrose Kemper (Peter Crisafulli) who seeks – for the moment, unsuccessfully – to wed Horace’s niece, the perennially tearful Ermengarde (Hannah Gomez); not to mention the pair of overworked and underpaid clerks employed at the wealthy man’s shop in Yonkers, New York. Cornelius Hackl (Josh Curtis-Switzer) and Barnaby (Jacob Wayne), just want one day off to visit the big city, have a swell meal – maybe even kiss a girl! – and the wily matchmaker suggests the two visit the very hat shop in New York City run by Irene and her assistant Minnie Fay (Kelly Rosales).

It may be an intricately woven web, but far from tangled: and while the professional meddler has all the pieces of the game in place, the next move by the master manipulator may be her own…

Truly, it is baffling the consistency and level of quality of the productions at the Gem Theater. The venue’s resident troupe, One More Productions, recently celebrated their 14th anniversary at the location, under the dedicated and devoted eyes of OMP founders Nicole Cassesso and Damien Lorton (who produced and directed the show, respectively.)

There is much to both marvel at, and revel in, with this production: the ornate, lavish and detailed costuming is a virtual feast for the eyes, and the dance numbers are a spectacle of color, energy and poise (“The Waiters’ Gallop” in Act II is a particular show-stopper, with Jon Michell stealing scenes as the manic-yet-charming head waiter Rudolph.) But the sonorous music brought to life by the skills of the performers (including the unseen, indispensable live orchestra) is the true wonder.

Baldwin’s stunning vocal skills shine in the tune, “Ribbons Down My Back”; Klega and company charm with the not-quite PC ditty, “It Takes A Woman” (a distinct throwback to a time before women’s suffrage); and Curtis-Switzer is marvelous and melodious as Cornelius, with a beautiful rendition of “It Only Takes A Moment” with Baldwin, as well as in “Put On Your Sunday Clothes” with Wayne, Crisafulli, Gomez, and the remarkable ensemble.

Without question, though, the scintillating star of the show is Adriana Sanchez, portraying the titular Dolly.

Patrons may recognize her from other productions at the Gem, such as last year’s “Follies”, and the quite popular annual “Holiday Gem” (portraying the bombastic Mrs. Claus): but it is doubtless that she brings all her talents to bear in “Dolly.” Not only does she breathe life into classics such as “I Put My Hand In” and “Hello, Dolly”, but her love for the character and passion for the role of a determined woman finding her path through helping others – sometimes whether they like it or not — makes Dolly a lovable, charming and endearing persona… someone, perhaps, even to aspire to.

“Hello, Dolly”, is still another in a string of striking and beautifully-realized productions at The Gem Theater in Garden Grove: a must-see show, presented by a talented and familial acting troupe, who will most certainly have much more great things to offer the local theater scene in the months and years to come.

“Hello, Dolly!” Adriana Sanchez, Tim Klega, Josh Curtis-Switzer and Erika Baldwin star in this charming musical romp surrounding a matchmaker in the early 20th century, and her own quest for love. Now playing through August 5 at The Gem Theater, 12852 Main Street, Garden Grove, CA, 92840. Call 714-741-9550 x221 or e-mail for ticketing information. Appropriate for all ages. 



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