City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

Review: Hello Dolly!

By Irene Brown - Posted on 31 March 2009

Show Details
The Brunton
Musselburgh Amateur Musical Association
Eleanor Brown (Director), Musical Director (Morven Murphy), Choreographer (Emma Grierson)
Audrey Dixon (Dolly Levi), Jim Lavery (Horace Vandergelder), Mark Becher (Cornelius Hackl), Ali MacDougall (Barnaby Tucker), Graeme Aitken (Ambrose Kemper), Elaine Graham (Mrs. Irene Molloy), Claire Riddoch (Minnie Fay), Laura Paterson (Ermengarde)

Musselburgh Amateur Musical Association (MAMA) has been producing musicals since 1951. Their production this year of Hello Dolly! (from the book by Michael Stewart, based on the play The Matchmaker by Thornton Wilder with music and lyrics by Jerry Herman) is another ambitious presentation.

It is thoroughly admirable that amateur groups are not only willing to give up precious time and give commitment to their annual shows, but that they continue to display such talent in every area of the production, giving young and old the chance to sing, act and play music together.

With one of New York's famous flatiron buildings on the backdrop, and the female chorus dressed in mustard, orange and cream dresses, we are introduced to the wonderfully meddlesome scarlet clad Dolly Gallagher Levi.

We learn that Dolly likes to arrange things from "furniture to daffodils to lives." Her late husband, Ephram Levi, knew all about making money and Dolly is missing being able to spend it. She asks Ephram to give her a sign that he approves of her wanting to start living again as she has set her sights on the grumpy half millionaire, Horace Vandergelder.

En route to her goal, she manages to be the catalyst to several other matches. These take the form of the lovely young widow Irene Molloy and her assistant, Minnie Fay, with Vandergelder's head clerk and his assistant, Cornelius Hackl and Barnaby Tucker, and Ambrose Kemper, the aspirational artist, with Vandergelder's greetin faced niece, Ermengarde.

Dolly's mission takes her to Yonkers, where Vandergelder has his hay and feed store, and where he reveals his arrogant alpha male view of women in the song It Takes a Woman. She then goes to New York to Mrs. Molloy's gorgeously decorated Mackintoshesque hat shop where the farce is played out with much hiding in cupboards and under tables by Cornelius and Barnaby when their employer appears with a box of ‘unshelled ‘ chocolate peanuts to woo the lovely milliner.

The two hicks are out for an adventure although Barnaby, resplendent in his knickerbocker chequered suit, has the limited horizon of seeing a stuffed whale, but Cornelius embraces the adventure and takes hesitant then enthusiastic dance lessons from, of course, Dolly.

Through Dolly's machinations, the net is slowly closing in on the hapless Horace. The characters all find themselves in the fanciest restaurant in town, the Harmonia Gardens, where Dolly, a vision of gold and yellow, is greeted like the old friend she is by all the staff including the lightning waiters in splendid red to the eponymous song Hello, Dolly! Dolly gets her sign and her man when Vandergelder now a willing victim spontaneously repeats a saying of Ephram's: "Money is like manure. It's not worth a thing unless it's spread about, encouraging young things to grow." Hello, Dolly! is a real battle of the sexes where the traditional male and female mindsets are shown in their polarised glory.

It would be grossly unfair to make comparisons between two genres of production. A filmmaker clearly has the upper hand in showing something like a parade as opposed to doing the same on stage with a limited budget. The slow tempo of music and sometimes hesitant steps of chorus meant that in the parade scene there was no pizzazz at all. Cornelius and Barnaby might have gone back to Yonkers at that point!

The company were professional and enthusiastic throughout the performance as was shown when one had to carry on dancing in spite of a fallen apron which smoothly dealt with by a fellow artiste. There is something endearing and nostalgic about seeing wobbly backdrops as scenes are changed in Brechtian style.

The main characters are extremely well cast, all dealing well with the N.Y. accent. All were good singers and had good stage presence but a special mention has to go to Mark Becher who ‘became' Cornelius and to the leading lady, Audrey Dixon, who performed this very demanding role so convincingly. The chorus also stayed in character in this show - maybe Dolly had worked her magic on them!

Show runs from Monday 30 March to Saturday 04 April at 19.30.

Tickets £10