Shelby Jamison (left) and Toby Straw play the two leads in Hello, Dolly! (KEIZERTIMES/Matt Rawlings).
Tom Cavanaugh and Josh Rist have been working together on McNary's annual winter musical since 2016, including productions of The Wizard of Oz and Grease. But both are in agreement that their latest rendition of Hello, Dolly! is the best show they have collaborated on.
“This is the grandest show we have done since Josh and I have been working together. I hope people feel nostalgic about this show”, said Cavanaugh, who is the theater director at the school and the director of the show. “We want to put shows that will showcase the talent we have and get people excited about seeing. But this year, we wanted to do something that is more classical.”
Hello, Dolly!, which opened at Ken Collins Theater on Thursday, Jan. 9, will have showings on Jan. 10-11 and Jan. 16-18 at 7 p.m. There will be additional 2 p.m. performances on Saturday, Jan. 11 and Saturday, Jan. 18.
Tickets are $10 for the general public and $8 for students and will be available at the door or online at mcnary-theater.ticketleap.com.
The show will feature performances by the McNary choir, band and theater departments. Rist is the vocal director of the show while Sean Williams will play the role of conductor.
The show is choreographed by Zoe Banton.
Hello, Dolly! was originally a Broadway show in the early 60’s — which then became an award-winning feature film in 1969 starring Barbra Streisand and Walter Matthau.
In late 19th century New York, matchmaker Dolly Gallagher Levi (played by Shelby Jamison) takes a trip to Yonkers to seek a wife for the well-known “half-a-millionaire” Horace Vandergelder (played by Toby Straw). However, it becomes clear that Dolly is hoping to be one the one that Vandergelder chooses as a spouse.
While the original Broadway show was a hit, Rist wanted the sound to be more like the revival version of the show, which came out in 2017 and won multiple Tony Awards.
“That recording of the revival show is amazing. This is different than what the kids have done together, but I got excited about it because I thought it was something that the kids would really get behind,” Rist said. “When I think of Broadway, I think of the lights, the music and just the pageantry of it all, and this show just cashes in on that.”
Jamison was quick to buy into her role and shared what it has been like preparing to portray a character with such a dynamic personality.
“I immediately watched the movie so I could watch how Barbara Streisand played the role, but I also watched a lot of different Broadway versions so I could see the different
character versions that they all did,” Jamison said. “I even made myself an entire playlist of songs that I feel like she would listen to, to get myself prepared. Even when I’m backstage, I will have a headphone in listening before I go on stage.”
“It’s been stressful getting all the information into my brain, but it honestly has been one of my favorite things that I have done in my life.”
Similar to Jamison, Straw has also enjoyed taking on the challenge of playing a character with a big personality.
“As the shows goes on, you just develop your character more and more. And by show time, it becomes more natural, but it’s still important to be present with your character throughout the performance,” Straw said. “It’s been such a fun show to do with learning new stuff and just going with the process every step of the way. I wouldn’t trade it for the world.”
With their dancing, singing and cornucopia of costumes, Cavanaugh hopes that this show will leave audience members in amazement.
“There’s a sense of wonder to the show. The audience is going on that journey with them and we hope they get caught up in it,” Cavanaugh said. “This group is just really committed to putting on a great show.”