You're Lookin' Swell, Dolly!

Written by Cordelia Janow, TeenTix Alumni

Photo Courtesy of Angela Sterling

As the curtain rises for Village Theatre's opening night of “Hello, Dolly!” in Issaquah, it is clear how much love and creative genius has been put into the production. The musical follows Dolly Levi (Bobbi Kotula) as she does what she does best: meddling. In a series of shenanigans, Dolly arranges love for three happy couples, and eventually, herself. “Hello, Dolly!” is full of iconic songs for musical theatre lovers, hilarious moments, and most importantly, love, with Dolly at the center of all of it. This production is impeccable, hitting every mark and then some. The stage is filled with the joy and livelihood of all the performers, designers, and creative team.

Bobbi Kotula is a standout, clearly born to play Dolly Levi. Upon her first entrance, the crowd burst into wild applause, anticipating her brilliance in the role. Kotula is everything that Dolly should be and more. She was completely in control of the stage, just as Dolly is in control of her world. Every moment was brought to life beautifully as Kotula created a nuanced portrayal of one of the most iconic Broadway characters. From the hilarious foolery of “Motherhood”, to the tear-jerking ballad of “Before the Parade Passes By”, Kotula captured the lively spirit of Dolly with her own quirks and interpretations. In a crowd-favorite moment, Kotula spoke back to an audience member's reaction that was a bit too loud, working it seamlessly into the scene. The command that Kotula had of the stage was palpable, and always kept the audience excited for more.

Photo Courtesy of Angela Sterling

The rest of the cast shined alongside Kotula, bringing their own flare to the stage. Allen Fitzpatrick as Horace Vandergelder is the perfect grumpy old man whos loveable side is brought out by none other than Dolly herself. Markcus Blair and Rhys Daly take to the stage as Cornelius Hackl and Barnaby Tucker, Vandergelder’s overworked employees who orchestrate a day off to find love and entertainment in New York City. Their plot pays off when they meet Irene Malloy (Jessica Skerritt) and Minnie Fay (Sarah “SG” Garcia), who they are each enamored with, respectively. Skerritt is lovely as Irene, sensible yet still romantic and fun-loving with a beautiful voice. Garcia’s Minnie is adorable and quirky, always a joy on the stage. The ensemble brings the world of “Hello, Dolly!” to life, with exuberant dancing, powerful vocals, and stand-out character bits.

Village Theatre’s “Hello, Dolly!” puts women at the forefront of decision-making. Though the time period of the play itself and when it was written may hold some outdated ideals, the power of women's voices still shines throughout this production. Early on, the men of the show sing a tune called “It Takes a Woman” in which they list off things that only women can do, mainly household chores. Though this song may seem regressive, the tone and directorial choices in this production highlights the misogyny and incompetency of the men, rather than actually enforcing gender roles.

Photo Courtesy of Angela Sterling

Additionally, the men in this play are generally helpless without Dolly’s assistance, which is highlighted by the acting and staging choices made. This is seen in Dolly’s stratagem to win Vandergelders heart, along with her meddling in Cornelius and Barnaby’s love lives. Feminist movements of the time were acknowledged on stage as well, with signs for the women's suffrage movement being held up during the parade. This moment of the show was very moving, as it set the play in context with greater American politics at the time. And, in the most iconic moment of the show, Dolly’s praises are sung by a crew of men upon her return to the Harmonia Gardens. In another powerful yet subtle moment, the choreography highlights queer couples, emphasizing the beauty of love in every form. This production sings the praises of Women’s power and updates its staging to celebrate all types of love.

“Hello, Dolly” at Village Theatre is a creative masterpiece and a beautiful celebration of love and joy for all. The production is reminiscent of classic Broadway, with elaborate costumes and set pieces that perfectly capture the idolized New York City where everything is shiny and perfect. The iconic music is played brilliantly by the orchestra and the performers exude happiness in every moment, making even simple entrances feel epic and profound. There is something in this show for everyone, as Village Theatre brings an old classic into the modern world.

"Hello, Dolly" runs at Village Theatre until July 30th.

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