Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Sarah Boone: Theatre Jacksonville executive director takes us behind the scenes of the theater company's 2009 Production of Hello, Dolly starring Harvey Evans and Pamela Myers!

Harvey Evans as Horace Vandergelder (Courtesy: Sarah Boone)

Theatre Jacksonville presented a concert version of Jerry Herman's Tony Award-winning Hello, Dolly! Feb. 14, 2009 at the Harold K. Smith Playhouse.
 Directed by Jean Tait, the concert co-starred Pamela Myers (Company) as Dolly Levi and Harvey Evans (Follies, Sunset Boulevard) as Horace Vandergelder.

Sarah Boone, Executive Director of Theater Jacksonville in Florida, who produced this concert version of Hello, Dolly in 2009, has a love of Hello, Dolly that began when she saw the film version starring Barbra Streisand when she was a young girl. That is a starting off point for so many and, therefore, the film shares a very significant place in Dolly’s legacy.
Sarah was very small the first time she saw it and she remembers it as being huge! She saw it the way it was meant to be seen, on the wide screen, and it was so much fun. As an adult, she has seen it on a smaller screen, the television screen, and through different eyes. She is thinking she was six or seven the first time she saw it. Although “many people” desire to find fault with Streisand’s performance, Sarah actually enjoys her in the role.
Sarah Boone as Irene Molloy (Courtesy Sarah Boone)
Sarah grew up in the south and was a musical theater kid from the word “go”. 
She has worked her whole life in theater. She eventually went to New York and studied with Herbert Berghoff and Donna McKechnie at HB Studios. 
She has done stock and dinner theaters. She ended up going back and getting an arts management degree at a later time in her life. She continued to work in some regional theaters in New York and got her current position at Theater Jacksonville which was originally founded in 1919. In 1926, it was incorporated as The Little Theatre of Jacksonville; dollars and land required for the construction of the theatre's historic San Marco facility donated by Carl S. Swisher. It is one of the few remaining theaters of that movement.
 As of this writing, they are celebrating their ninety-third consecutive season. They are also one of the ten community based theaters in the country. It started out as a community theater and continues to this date.
 As been talk of going professional over the years but it has remained a community theater. They are housed in a facility that was built in 1938. It is also part of the historic registry. It has a proscenium stage and they do a season of five musicals and plays. They have a summer classic. They have a guerilla/second stage offering. Although they actually don’t have a “second stage”, they squish it in. They have done a cabaret/musical benefit every year since Sarah began there (2000) which leads us to their association with Hello, Dolly! They had been doing a musical event every year around Valentine’s Day. In the past, they had had Donna McKechnie, Linda Purl, and Amanda McBroom among others. In 2009, they came up with doing a concert version of Hello, Dolly! It, of course, is based on The Matchmaker. Sarah thought there is no better Valentine story. 

Photo courtesy of Jeremy Paterno
They started out on this journey with Hello, Dolly!
Harvey Evans had played Barnaby early in his career but never played Horace. Pamela Myers had never done Dolly. They came down to headline for Theater Jacksonville and the rest of the cast and chorus was made up of locals. The cast consisted of fifty people total.
The casting of Harvey and Pamela was Sarah’s idea. They both jumped at the opportunity. They also jumped to work with each other. 
She is friends with both. The local casting was pretty much handpicked. There was outstanding local talent that they were familiar with. When the curtain rose and the stage lights illuminated  Theatre Jacksonville’s Harold K. Smith Playhouse in San Marco for the full concert performance of Hello, Dolly, it marked the directorial return of Jean Tait with musical direction by Eugene Gwozdz and choral direction by Rachel Clifton. 
Photo courtesy of Jeremy Paterno
Eugene had worked with Theater Jacksonville for several years. He came down and spent a week working on the show prior to the concert. He got the musicians together and it was a really glorious event. 
Jean has a terrific sensibility about musical theater and, about this particular production, about what would work most for a concert version. She was able to really identify what was needed and made sure they kept the most important things.

They started having choral rehearsals in January. They did it very much like the Encores series in New York meaning they had scripts in hand for the concert. They were very familiar with the scripts but they did carry them as a safety net. They pretty much knew their music. The acting rehearsals took place that week leading up to the Saturday night performance. Harvey Evan, Pamela Myers and Jean Tait came in the Friday night of the week before.  They rehearsed Saturday morning and every evening that week leading up to performance. There were six rehearsals that included Harvey and Pamela. 
They had a full dress rehearsal on Friday night.
When it comes to Jerry Herman, Sarah believes he is a genius. He has given the world a body of work that will live on. Look at Hello, Dolly! It is a period piece. 
It is also timeless. It worked in the instance of Theater Jacksonville without the costuming and production values usually associated with Dolly.
Sarah knew this was going to be a great Dolly even before they were in rehearsals. The fact that they were doing this on Valentine’s Day really added to that and Sarah knew it was going to be fine. There are always some detractors who say, “Oh, you’re going to do this old show? WHY are you doing this old show?” Sarah knew every single person that was going to be in the show. They were all pros.    
Harvey was a wonderful Horace. It was so wonderful to be on stage with him because of his wealth of experience in Music Theater AND Hello, Dolly! 
He goes back to the first productions including the first national tour with Carol Channing. He was just delightful.
Pamela is always just amazingly good. The most fun for everyone was getting to work with these two pros. When you work with someone of that caliber, it steps your game up. Everyone with this company stepped away were fulfilled on a level that they had not been before.
This production honored the script wholeheartedly; nothing was added or left out.
There have not been many concert versions of this show. 
It was very special. They got picked up on Playbill and TheaterMania and because of Harvey and Pamela’s involvement, there were articles nationally. That was very cool for Theater Jacksonville. It was done very traditionally. Because it was a concert version, they were not in costumes (except for the famed Dolly gown). Because of the way the entire show was presented, Sarah doesn’t feel they lost anything by not having one of the most iconic images: Dolly’s iconic entrance down the stairs of the Harmonia Gardens. Dolly/Pamela made her entrance from behind the male chorus and the orchestra.    
Sarah is still very pleased with that production and, looking back, would not have done anything differently. Sarah also played Irene Molloy which is the only “legit” character in the show. Sarah worked to make that integration seem seamless. Eileen Brennan was so rich vocally when she did it originally. Finding her own sound in that part and to integrate into the whole show was very important to Sarah. When she prepared for it, she didn’t desire to come off as an outsider.
The cast also included Michael Lipp, and Juan Unzueta. One thing that she took from this production was the ability to rely on the beauty and simplicity of a well crafted piece of theater. They had to minimize things to make it work. Instead of having a chorus of dancing waiters, they had a stand out guy come out and do an aerial routine. 
This production was done in a very small pace. It was about choosing even the most precise choices without losing the intent of the original creative team. She will not saw it was flaw-free, but it was a lot of fun from an actresses’ and a producers standpoint. They did not have any crisis with the show. There was a lot of planning that went on to make it go smooth. 
Everything was in place by the time they got to production week.
Even without the production values usually associated with Dolly, the title song still stopped the show. How could it not with a bunch of men singing? There is something about her going down the line with those boys. 
It is so endearing and Dolly is a survivor and you have all of these people loving her and welcoming her back. It just fills your heart.          
Because of the size and scope of a full scale production, it is not currently in the future cards for this theater. It also has only been three years, as of this writing, since this production.
Sarah believes the major impact that Dolly has had on audiences for the past fifty years is joy.

   Cast List  
Mrs. Dolly Gallagher Levi.... Pamela Myers
Horace Vandergelder .... Harvey Evans
Irene Molloy .... Sarah Boone
Cornelius Hackl .... Michael Lipp
Barnaby Tucker .... Juan Unzueta
Minnie Fay .... Miranda Lawson
Ermengarde .... Kellie Wyatt
Ambrose Kemper .... Tyler Ross
Ernestina .... Amy Noel Canning
Rudolph Reisenweber .... Jim Goodell
Judge White .... Karl Rogers

chorus ...

MaryBeth Antoinette, Joel DeCandio, Andrew Dickson

Matt Fischer, Renee Freeman, Erin Gawera

Claire Hibbard, Lee Hamby, Soo Young Jeong

Sung Su Kim, Tanner Lane, Lana Nichols, Lee O'Quinn

Rebekah Price, Chris Robertson, Mary Ann Vaccaro

 Photos courtesy of Sarah Boone and Jeremy Paterno

Thank you Sarah Boone for the gifts you have given to the world and will continue to give!

With grateful XOXOXs ,

Check out my site celebrating my forthcoming book on Hello, Dolly!

I desire this to be a definitive account of Hello, Dolly!  
If any of you reading this have appeared in any production of Dolly, I'm interested in speaking with you!

Do you have any pics?

If you have anything to add or share, please contact me at Richard@RichardSkipper.com.


Please do what YOU can to be more aware that words and actions DO HURT...but they can also heal and help!    
My next blog will be... My Exclusive interview with Director and Choreographer Vincent Patterson

Thank you, to all the mentioned in this blog!

Here's to an INCREDIBLE tomorrow for ALL...with NO challenges!

I'm celebrating Pamela Luss on Thursday, November 15th, 2012 at 9:30 pm
Pamela with Houston Person at The Metropolitan Room in NYC
Just The Two Of Us and Friends
Hope you can make it. It’s going to be a party!
Reserve today if that date is available! Call me if any questions!
 Richard Skipper 845-365-0720


Richard Skipper, Richard@RichardSkipper.com                            

This Blog is dedicated to ALL THE DOLLYS and ANYONE who has EVER had a connection with ANY of them on ANY Level!

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