The current stage production of Hello, Dolly! starring Marina Prior alongside her real-life husband, Grant Piro at the Melbourne Arts Centre is nothing short of spellbinding. A delight of swirling colour, captivating costumes, lively song and dance routines and heaps of laughs throughout – I'm sure no-one could resist the mischievous charms of Mrs Dolly Levi.
With the orchestra situated in the middle of the stage surrounded by two wide sweeping staircases, it didn't seem to leave very much room for the sets and performers. I'll admit to some pre-show jitters about how lavish the production could be in such limited space. I'm relieved to say the choreography and staging was so well done such space restrictions were soon forgotten as this uplifting tale unfolded.
The costumes were unmistakably impressive. Of the highest quality, they provided a spectacle of swirling, vibrant colour and the detail, especially in the hats, was exceptional.
As a fan of the movie since I was a little girl, I had no idea Hello, Dolly! had such a long and interesting backstory. A free program was provided upon entry and several pages are dedicated to the evolution of the show. The musical Broadway production, originally written for Ethel Merman, debuted with Carol Channing in the title role. Dolly was subsequently played by some of the best including Ginger Rogers, Eve Arden, Martha Raye, Betty Grable, Phyllis Diller and - eventually - Ethel Merman. Marina Prior, currently slipping into that classic gold gown for the title number, is all style, grace and elegant charm. It's hard to believe the role wasn't written especially for her.
While each performance is perfectly executed, the stand out for me was Grant Piro as the irascible bachelor, Horace Vandergelder. With an impressive career tucked under his belt, Piro, as Vandergelder, managed to grumpily oppose - while participating in - the mayhem, right up until the moment he finally succumbs to Dolly's charms.
Nigel Huckle, Glenn Hill, Verity Hunt-Ballard & Imogen Moore
Verity Hunt-Ballard plays milliner-in-search-of adventure, Irene Molloy with Glenn Hill as her unlikely suitor, Cornelius Hackl, who quite ably leads Nigel Huckle, as the young shop clerk Barnaby Tucker, astray on a single day out in New York. Alana Tranter was larger than life as Ernestina Simple and the supporting cast, particularly during dinner service at the Harmonia Gardens Restaurant, deserved a standing ovation.
With choreography seemingly inspired by the incomparable Gene Kelly, director and choreographer of the 1969 film version starring Barbra Streisand and Walter Matthau in the title roles, movement and transitions through the scenes provides far too much to look at. I would certainly love to see the show again, simply to take it all in.
Playing a run that is far too short, Hello, Dolly! is already half way through and there are a scattering of seats left. With the last performance being a matinee on Sunday 11th June 2017, don't delay. This is a show the whole family will love.
Tickets can be purchased through the Arts Centre Melbourne website and shows are playing most days, with matinee and evening performances until the 11th June. Ticket prices range from $25 for under 18's, and from $50 to $139 for standard and concession tickets.
Don't miss this wonderful opportunity to say Hello, Dolly!