Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Phoenix

Hello, Dolly!
Zao Theatre
Review by Gil Benbrook

Also see Gil's reviews of Our Dear Dead Drug Lord and The Crucible

Britt Powell and Adam Guinn
Photo by Michael E. Bryce
Chock-full of familiar songs and numerous moments of hilarity, Hello, Dolly! is a musical comedy classic. With talented leads, a large ensemble cast, and rich creative elements, Zao Theatre presents a charming and winning production of this beloved musical.

Set in New York in the late 1800s, the plot follows widow Dolly Levi, a determined and brassy woman of many talents who provides her services, including matchmaking, for a fee. When the wealthy Yonkers, New York, merchant Horace Vandergelder hires Dolly to find him a wife, the meddling, nosey, and fast-talking Dolly sets her sights on getting Horace for herself. Along the way, everyone around Vandergelder, including his overworked clerks and his young niece, get caught up in Dolly's plan, as she encourages them to find joy and happiness in their lives.

Based on Thornton Wilder's play The Matchmaker, Hello, Dolly! features a score by Jerry Herman that includes several lush romantic ballads and over a half dozen toe-tapping tunes, including "Before the Parade Passes By" and the title song. Michael Stewart's book is fast paced and fun, and even though the show is a bit dated in how the women are all trying to find husbands, they are all strong female characters who often dominate their cranky and naïve male counterparts and are all in complete control of the consequences of their actions.

As Dolly Levi, Britt Powell exudes warmth and charm. It's easy to see from the large and rich personality that Powell brings to Dolly how so many people fall under her charms. Powell navigates quite well between the humorous quips and opinions Dolly often states and the introspective talks she has with her late husband to make Dolly a realistic woman. Powell is forceful, but she also brings plenty of heart to the role. Her singing voice is bright and brassy but also a little thin, but she still pulls off all of Dolly's well-known songs quite well.

Adam Guinn is wonderful as the cantankerous Horace Vandergelder. Guinn doesn't play Horace as just mean, irritable and insufferable, as others in this role have played him; he also brings warmth and realism to make Horace truly three-dimensional. Guinn's singing voice is rich and appealing.

Tyler Galley and Charlie Hall are knockouts as Cornelius Hackl and Barnaby Tucker, Vandergelder's underpaid and overworked clerks. Galley's perfect comic timing and exaggerated facial expressions get lots of laughs, and Hall's exuberance, joy, and athletic dancing result in a winning and crowd-pleasing performance. Lauren Tye and Ashley Letizia are both spirited and charming as Dolly's friend Irene Molloy and the giddy, fun-loving Minnie Fay, respectively. All four have vocals that are bright and soar. In smaller parts, Devorah Coon and Kyle Webb are appealing as Ermengarde, Horace's niece, and her enamored boyfriend Ambrose, and Lynn Golden is a hoot as Ernestina, a loud woman Dolly sets Horace up on a date with.

Michael E. Bryce's perceptive direction ensures the comic scenes get big laughs while not shortchanging the heartwarming, emotional and romantic moments. The large cast do quite well with the abundance of choreography by Ashley Harkey and Djuro Baich, which also provides a few moments to highlight Ermengarde and Ambrose, helping to make their characters more present in this production than in others I've seen. Michael Snyder's music direction delivers good vocals from the entire cast. J. Michael Sanders' set design incorporates several rolling set pieces that quickly move the plot from one location to the next, with Bryce's media design providing archival photos and paintings of the various locales. The costumes by Pam Allen and Sharyn Sheffer are stunningly gorgeous and period perfect; Dolly's red dress when she goes to the Harmonia Gardens is a knockout.

Hello, Dolly! is a fun, upbeat classic musical. While the story may be old-fashioned, the message that it's never too late to find romance and adventure in your life is one that never gets old.

Hello, Dolly! runs through November 20, 2021, at Zao Theatre, 550 South Ironwood Drive, Apache Junction AZ. You can get information and tickets at or by calling 602-320-3275

Director/Media Design: Michael E. Bryce
Music Director: Michael Snyder
Choreographer: Ashley Harkey, Djuro Baich
Set Design: J. Michael Sanders
Costume Design: Pam Allen, Sharyn Sheffer
Lighting Design: Bob Nelson, Sharyn Sheffer
Sound Design: John Schoenwolf
Properties: Terri Parker, Priscilla Bertling
Music Tracks/Effects: Stacey Blake
Stage Manager: Joe Morgan

Dolly Levi: Britt Powell
Horace Vandergelder: Adam Guinn
Cornelius Hackl: Tyler Galley
Barnaby Tucker: Charlie Hall
Irene Malloy: Lauren Tye
Minnie Fay: Ashley Letizia
Ermengarde: Devorah Coon
Ambrose Kemper: Kyle Webb
Ernestina: Lynn Golden
Mrs Rose: Priscilla Bertling
Rudolph: Benjermin Tietz
Stanley: Laine Bombard
Judge: Michael Leeth
Court Clerk: Turner McKenzie
Dance Ensemble: Rebecca Bryce, Isabella Bombard, Brianne Gobeski, Sophie-Leigh Jordan, Carah Mollerup, Sapphire Nova, Calliandra Rasmussen, Punawai Tietz, Jake Ashton, Max Brown, Carter Samuel, Owen Grover, Jeff Montgomery, Benjermin Tietz, Turner McKenzie, Michael Leeth
Vocal Ensemble: Laine Bombard, Joshua Merrill, Alec Merrill, Jayden Montgomery, Priscilla Bertling, Randi Jill, Lynanne Cottle, Lynn Golden, Julie Hastings, Katrielle Jordan, Kendall Morgan, Sarai Phillips-Dunlap