The so-called “elephant in the room” for any amateur opera company undertaking a production which has had the big-screen Hollywood treatment, is the often role-defining performances set by the stars.
That’s why the cast and crew of Kelso Opera could have been forgiven for approaching their production of Hello, Dolly! with some trepidation.
Who can forget the 1969 romantic comedy musical film based on the Broadway production of the same name, starring Barbra Streisand and Walter Matthau?
Or the great Carol Channing who made the part of Dolly her signature role after appearing in the original Broadway performances?
But the Kelso cast needed have no fears, for its show this week in the town’s Tait Hall is full of energy, comedy, singalong songs and some nifty dance footwork.
For those who don’t know the story, Mrs Dolly Levi, a strong-willed matchmaker, journeys to Yonkers in New York to find a suitable wife for the miserly “well-known unmarried half-a-millionaire” Horace Vandergelder.
Along the way, she manages to persuade his niece, his niece’s intended, and Vandergelder’s two clerks to travel to the Big Apple.
By the end of the show, she’s matched them all up through various humourous machinations, as well as herself with skinflint Vandergelder.
The show includes one of the most famous songs in the history of American musical comedy, with the title number, Put On Your Sunday Clothes, Ribbons Down My Back, Before The Parade Passes By and It Only Takes a Moment, were all performed with real zest by the Kelso cast.
Centre stage as the Dolly is Lorraine Kemp. Well-known for her involvement with the Selkirk company, Kelso-educated Lorraine was delighted to be offered the lead at Kelso this year. “Although most faces have changed – not all – the enthusiasm for musical theatre is as strong as ever,” Lorraine said of her time rehearsing this year. “I have enjoyed working with Kelso again. And the veteran performer really inhabits the role, with her customary beautiful singing tones and a nod to Streisand with some first- rate comedic timing and all delivered in a pretty flawless American accent.
Opposite her as crusty hay and feed store owner, Vandergelder, is Kelso stalwart Murray Potts with a nicely judged performance in what is a tricky part to pitch just right.
Vandergelder’s two hapless store clerks are well played by Ben Campbell as Cornelius Hackl and Alan Thomson, as Barnaby “I want to see the famous stuffed whale” Tucker.
The two made a nicely humorous show of Put On Your Sunday Clothes, while Cornelius and Barnaby’s love interests, hat shop owner Irene Molloy and her assistant, Minnie Fay, are superbly played by Sarah Anderson and Yvonne Mitchell.
Sarah has a lovely singing voice that is a genuine asset to Kelso, as demonstrated on her rendition of Ribbons Down My Back, while Yvonne’s turn as the over-excitable Minnie was done to perfection.
Other main roles are Tony Jackson as Ambrose Kemper, the beau of Vandergelder’s constantly hysterical niece, Ermengarde, played by Amy Darrie.
Julie Dickson makes a suitably impressive Ernestina, while Celia Kimber is a sad Mrs Rose and Bill McCraw is spot on as Harmonia Gardens’ strutting Germanic maitre d’, Rudolf.
All credit to the cast, director Catherine Fish, orchestra under John Mabon and choreographer Marie Kay McCullough for a great show – just don’t let this particular foot stompin’ parade pass you by!