Review: “Hello, Dolly!” in Sonoma

When reviewing theatre, the technical elements involved in a production often take a back seat to a discussion of the story and the performances. People don’t go to a show because of the lights, right?

There are times, however, when the poor execution of those elements so overwhelms the other components on stage that it negates the fine work otherwise being done. Such is the case with the Sonoma Arts Live production of Hello, Dolly! running now through October 21.

There may be no more iconic figure in American theatre than Dolly Levi and the Jerry Herman musical built around the matchmaker and all-around busybody has been a reliable audience-pleaser for more than 50 years. It made a star of Carol Channing in 1964 and Bette Midler’s work in last year’s Broadway revival snagged her the Tony Award for Best Actress in a Musical.

Dani Innocenti Beem

Michael Ross, director of last year’s Sonoma Arts Live production of Gypsy, reunites with many of the artists involved in that (mostly) successful production. Local vocal powerhouse Dani Innocenti Beem follows up her award-winning work as “Mama” Rose with another star turn as Dolly. She’s joined by Tim Setzer as the marriage-seeking merchant Horace Vandergelder, Danielle DeBow as milliner Irene Molloy, and Michael Scott Wells as Cornelius Hackl, the chief clerk at Vandergelder’s Hay and Feed store.

Dolly’s pursuit of Horace and Cornelius’s pursuit of adventure and love is charmingly told by the cast with Beem doing a great job showing both Dolly’s bravado and vulnerability. The chemistry she showed with Setzer in Gypsy continues in this production. They make a good onstage team.

Michael Scott Wells is very likable as Cornelius, and the chemistry he and DeBowe have onstage may have something to do with them being married offstage.

There’s some great ensemble work, particularly in the large production numbers. The “Waiters’ Gallop” and “Hello, Dolly!” scenes showcase both Janis Snyder’s vibrant costuming and some very entertaining choreography by Liz Andrews. Among the acrobatic ensemble, keep your eye out for Zach Frangos. This young man can dance.

Ensemble in “Waiters’ Gallop”

All of this fine work was completely undermined by the incompetent execution of the sound design. The evening was a non-stop series of microphone mishaps, sound level issues, and music track mistakes that gave the show the feel of a disastrous dress rehearsal rather than an opening night triumph.

Sonoma Arts Live needs to get its technical act together.

Rating (out 5 five): ★★★★ (Performances)
Rating (out 5 five): ★          (Technical Execution)
Rating (out 5 five): ★★½    (Overall)

‘Hello, Dolly!’ runs through October 21 at Andrews Hall, 276 E. Napa St., Sonoma. Thursday–Saturday, 7:30pm; Sunday, 2pm. $25–$40. 866.710.8942. sonomaartslive.org

*Author’s Note: I have been in contact with individuals involved with the production and with audience members who attended subsequent performances and have been assured by them all that the technical issues have been resolved. 

Photos by Eric Chazankin

This review originally appeared in an edited version in the North Bay Bohemian.

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