A few weeks ago my only knowledge of "Hello, Dolly!" was that it had a song in it by the same name. I had no idea what to expect when I went to Winchester Thurston's production of the classic romantic comedy.
"Hello, Dolly!" takes place in the late 1800s. Dolly Gallagher Levi is a well established matchmaker in New York who is often enlisted to help in many different areas. She appears to be searching for a match for Horace Vandergelder. However the audience learns that she is also looking to pair herself up with Mr. Vandergelder. Through crazy chance encounters and many laughs, Dolly finds herself in tough spots but ultimately reaches her goal.
Playing the Dolly was Elena Falgione. I was completely blown away by her impeccable performance. As a high school senior she performs well beyond her years. She commanded the stage at all times and made you want to watch her. There was never a moment of laziness in her both physically and vocally. Occasionally I would see some of the actors onstage looking into the audience, uninvested in the show. I watched Miss Falgione to see if her focus would stray, but it never ceased. This is especially important in such a small theatre because the audiences' eyes will follow the eyes of the actors.
As if that weren't enough to impress, her voice was extremely expressive and well controlled. She showed powerful emotions through crescendos and decrescendos, emphasis, and clear concise diction. In many ways she completely outshined her fellow cast mates.
Another standout performer was James Counihan, who played Barnaby Tucker. Throughout there were moments of very low excitement and energy from the performers. I would look at James and sure enough he would be active and reacting to everything that was happening in his character's world. He was also the main source of comic relief. From the second he made his first entrance to when he took his bow, I was able to identify and clearly understand where this character was coming from and what he wanted.
It is apparent that like Miss Falgione, Mr. Counihan did a significant amount of character work. I also made note of his vocal abilities. He did not have the most powerful voice, but that was not needed for his character.???Just by looking at him I could see that he was articulating his words. In a high school setting that is very impressive.
Now one group that typically goes unnoticed is the ensemble, which can make or break a show. In Winchester Thurston's production the ensemble sang in unity. Every so often you see a musical and cannot understand a word that the chorus is singing. In this case every word, every syllable, was clear. There was such vocal energy bounding from the stage and ricocheting of the walls. However, this was not matched by their physical energy. Many of the actors seemed tired. It was a late show (it began at 8:30), however the fun of performing should be enough to heighten the excitement.
Overall "Hello, Dolly!" was a great effort by Winchester Thurston. I am glad to know that the musical consists of more than simply a song by the same name.
"Hello, Dolly!" ran April 26-28.
The Kelly Critics is a joint program of the Post-Gazette and Pittsburgh CLO's Gene Kelly Awards for Excellence in High School Musicals, in which students at Kelly schools review musicals at other Kelly schools. Reviews are edited by senior theater critic Christopher Rawson