HELLO DOLLY! Colgan Returns To Direct Hello, Dolly!
Author: Mark Kreuzwieser | Photographer: Photography by Anne
Casey Colgan returned to his old stomping grounds on Monday, November 8, to begin the real work of directing Hello, Dolly! at the Arts Center of Coastal Carolina December 1-26. He had already sat in on casting up in New York. Colgan, a local stage favorite, is directing the Arts Center’s first production of the Broadway chestnut, and is unabashedly geeked about the show.
“I do two or three shows here a year, and I think my friend Kathleen (Bateson, president and CEO of the Arts Center) probably picked me to direct ??Hello, Dolly!??” Colgan said in a recent interview on Hilton Head.
“Whenever I read this play, there are a lot of things I get choked up about. It’s set in such an innocent time, the end of the Victorian age. No computers, no cars. All the characters are some sort of misfit in life, and a woman (Dolly) is bringing them all together, matching them up, and at the same time trying to match herself up with someone.
“Dolly is Broadway’s favorite leading lady,” he said. “And, the show is such a happy, upbeat musical, everyone should walk out humming and tapping their toes. I hope they leave feeling good, loving and giving. If not, I’m afraid something’s wrong with them.”
Playing Dolly is Ontario-based actress Karen Edissi, with whom Colgan has often worked. “I’ve danced with her too. Karen is wonderfully funny. She’s like having a Lucille Ball in the cast. If she makes a mistake, you’ll never know it. She’ll turn it into something funny anyway. She always gets the last laugh,” said Colgan.
Playing her love interest, Horace Vandergelder, is Richard White, who was the original voice of Gaston in Disney’s animated feature film Beauty and the Beast. “He’s a veteran of Broadway,” Colgan said. “He’s got a huge, booming voice, and, when the audience hears him on stage, they’ll immediately recognize him. I’ve known him a long time, but this is the first time I’ve worked with him.”
Colgan has worked on Hilton Head since 1987, when he choreographed The Wiz at Hilton Head Prep. He sang during ground-breaking ceremonies at the Arts Center and has donated his efforts and performances to help raise funds for arts on the island. He was the lead in the first production at the Arts Center, the Gershwins’ Crazy for You, and most recently directed the acclaimed My Fair Lady last winter at the Arts Center.
“Our patrons know Casey very well,” said Tim Hager, director of marketing for the Arts Center. “There is a distinct flair to Casey’s work. He was on stage first, and he was with us our first season (15 years ago) as an actor.”
Though the Arts Center has never produced Hello, Dolly!, “it feels like our kind of show,” Hager said. “Our patrons like this kind of production, big Broadway numbers, lavish costumes, comedy and music.”
While Colgan re-acclimates himself to his well-known surroundings at the Arts Center and its Elizabeth Wallace Theatre, the staff and crew shift into overdrive. Administrative staff is busy answering phones and e-mail selling tickets; costume designers and makers are sewing up a storm; and props and set folks are buzzing bees.
“We do everything in house,” Hager said as he speed-walked through the labyrinths of the Arts Center and theatre. “The Arts Center is a local business, and we employ a lot of creative people. This is the only time you will see this version of Hello, Dolly!; our shows are unique.”
WELL, HELLO, DOLLY!
‘Famous’ matchmaker Dolly Levi, who spends most of her time finding love for others, decides it’s time to find her own match. The musical, by Jerry Herman based on a Thornton Wilder story, is set in the 1890s, and tells the story of Dolly who has been hired to arrange a marriage for the widowed “half-millionaire” Horace Vandergelder. She changes course, and sets her sights on Horace and his fortune, setting out to meddle and maneuver to make the match ignite.
Louis Armstrong’s version of the song “Hello, Dolly!” was inducted in the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2001. The music and lyrics were written by Jerry Herman, who also wrote the scores for many other popular musicals including Mame and La Cage aux Folles.
“Hello, Dolly!” was first sung by Carol Channing, who starred as Dolly Gallagher Levi in the original 1964 Broadway production, opening on January 16, 1964, at the St. James Theatre in New York City.
Across the street, Colgan says with a naughty grin, Barbra Streisand’s Funny Girl was playing. Channing and Streisand were friends, hung out together and did lunch. But when Channing garnered the Tony Award for best actress in a musical for Hello, Dolly!, their friendship went south. “Streisand secured the rights to the movie and naturally starred in it (in 1969), as a slap in the face to Carol. This is what I’ve been told,” he noted with a chuckle. “It was strange that a 26-or 27-year-old Streisand was playing the role of a 45- to 60-year-old woman. A lot of the movie (version) doesn’t make sense.”
Another nugget is that Jerry Herman’s tune Hello, Dolly! was the last song added to the musical, Colgan said. Was the song that America knows so well an afterthought? Satchmo’s version reached number one on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 and became his biggest hit. Hello, Dolly! won the Grammy Award for Song of the Year in 1965, and Armstrong received a Grammy for Best Vocal Performance, Male.
Colgan and collaborators selected much of the professional cast in auditions in New York, including 11 of Colgan’s dance students at the American Musical and Dramatic Academy, though a few locals are in the lineup, including dancers Jodi Layman and Patti Maurer (“two of the best from Hilton Head,” he said). Choreographing the dance numbers is Laura West Strawser, a dancer-turned choreographer who once performed in the Radio City Christmas Spectacular. Although much of the dancing features graceful, fluid movements, there are also plenty of athletic numbers with big jumps, turns and tricks.
Award-winning Bradley Vieth is musical director. “This is the fourth production we’ve worked on together,” Colgan said, “including Camelot and La Cage Aux Folles.”
Audiences will also recognize Matthew James Gray, the lead in the 2008 production of The Buddy Holly Story, and Lindsie Van Winkle, who starred as Eliza Doolittle in My Fair Lady and Eponine in Les Miserables. In Hello, Dolly!, the New York actors play Cornelius and Irene, one of the couples matched up by Dolly.
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A dance faculty member of the American Musical and Dramatic Academy in New York City since 1985, Colgan has directed, choreographed and acted in dozens of productions, including The Wizard of Oz, A Chorus Line, My Fair Lady, Elton John’s Aida, Les Miserables, Evita, Hairspray, Beauty and the Beast and The Producers.
Colgan was born in Quincy, Ill., also the home of actress Mary Astor. He now lives in Hell’s Kitchen, N.Y.
Colgan will return to Hilton Head in the spring to direct John Waters’ infamous Hairspray, April 27-May 29, 2011.