FSLT stages ‘HUGE’ production of classic musical, ‘Hello, Dolly!’

FSLT stages ‘HUGE’ production of classic musical, ‘Hello, Dolly!’

The marquee might say “Fort Smith Little Theatre,” but director Shannon Stoddard promises the summer musical is “HUGE.”

“Hello, Dolly!,” opening July 18, has a cast of 26, in rehearsal since May 16; a crew of eight; a creative team of 10; and about 40 volunteers who have been making dozens of costumes in the high style of the 1890s and building sets suitable for turn-of-the-20th-century New York.

“It is truly taking an army to put this show together,” Stoddard says.

Auditions were held May 13-14, and the cast rehearsed only the music until June 10. Blocking and choreography were added next, and on July 1, set changes became part of rehearsals, which take place for at least two hours nightly, Monday through Friday.

Stoddard credits Janet Renwick for costume design — all made by FSLT, not rented; Gary Cameron for set design; Lora Rice and Lawanda Jones for backdrops; and “I have to shout out Brandon Bolin, who has been an incredible music director.

“This music is a LOT, and he has taught it with such ease,” she marvels. “Wait until you hear this cast sing! The musical numbers are MASSIVE and have such great harmonies!

“‘It Takes a Woman’ with Horace and our male ensemble makes me smile every night they practice,” she says, “but I am also loving the title song ‘Hello, Dolly!’ and ‘Put On Your Sunday Clothes’ because they are just such fun big numbers that involve the whole ensemble.”

Leading lady Jane Ann Short, who portrays professional matchmaker Dolly Levi, expects audiences to leave humming all of those songs and one more.

“‘Before the Parade Passes By’ has always been a battle cry for many people — for women especially, I think,” she says.

“Dolly is a red headed fireball who loves to meddle — and she makes no bones about it,” Short says of her character. “But underneath the meddling, she has a heart of gold and wants everyone to be in love and be happy. I admire Dolly and her ability to make things happen. And I appreciate the fireball part, too — maybe because I’ve been called that a few times during my life. I sincerely hope that I can do Dolly justice.”

“To me this show is about taking an adventure,” says Barry Law, who plays the object of Dolly’s desires, Horace Vandergelder. “It’s as important now as it was 60 years ago to sometimes step out of your normal life and take an adventure.”

Law says his character describes himself as “rich, friendless and mean, but he really is an old softy at heart. A lot of middle-aged men seem to have built a hard shell around them. But when someone comes along like Dolly Levi, their perspective changes.”

Stoddard points out that Dolly and Horace’s love story isn’t the only one.

“‘Hello, Dolly’ is essentially a love story at its very core,” she says. “Throughout the show, we watch four different couples experience love in different ways.”

And they do it all while singing and dancing.

“For me, the biggest challenge in this show has been the dancing,” says Rebekah Nickell, who plays Irene Molloy, also in line for Vandergelder’s affections. “Thankfully we have some amazing choreography from Ellie Caruthers and Allie Gooden! They make me look a little better.”

“Learning all of the dances has been challenging but so rewarding,” says Casey Cowan, in his first show at FSLT as Cornelius. “It’s an absolute blast to learn choreography, struggle through it, and come out on the other side doing something that is fulfilling and artistic.”

“The greatest reward is seeing everyone having fun and working so hard, everything falling into place, and knowing that this is going to be a wonderful, exciting show,” Short concludes.



“Hello, Dolly!”

WHEN — 7:30 p.m. July 18-20; 2 p.m. July 21; again July 24-28 and Aug. 1-3

WHERE — Fort Smith Little Theatre, 401 N. Sixth St. in Fort Smith

COST — $25 opening night; $20 all other performances; half-price tickets for children July 25 & Aug. 1

INFO — fslt.org or 783-2966

Categories: Cover Story