Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Samantha Rehr: Hello, Dolly through the eyes of a Fifteen Year Old High School Production of Hello, Dolly!



As of this interview, Samantha Rehr is twenty years old and getting her BFA in Acting at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. While committed to pursuing her Acting degree, she has no minor. She furthermore considers herself very fortunate to have a loving and supportive family behind her. 
Samantha Rehr
Hello, Dolly! is a show that appeals to a multitude of generations and demographics. Jerry Herman once said that somewhere in the world on any given night, a woman is descending the stairs in an outlandish headdress and red gown. Hello, Dolly!, fifty years later, is still a popular and staple production in high schools around the world. Samantha Rehr was a mere fifteen years old when she was given the opportunity to do Dolly Gallagher Levi’s togs; strutting her stuff at Weston High School in Weston, Connecticut.

Samantha’s desire and passion to pursue a career as an actress was definitely driven by her involvement with Hello, Dolly!

 Although Dolly was not Samantha’s first try at acting, it was the one that changed the course of her life. When she was in the fifth grade, she was in Annie Get Your Gun, as a Native American. Thus, theatre turned out to be an important after-school activity for her. At the time, Samantha didn’t entertain the possibility of acting as a serious career; that is, not until she played the monumental role of Dolly Levi. After Annie Get Your Gun, Samantha Rehr would continue her small roles just for the fun of it.

Along with her various school productions, she was also involved with summer acting opportunities. As time went on, she began to more seriously tap into her potential as an actress. As she finally became more comfortable with the auditioning process, her audition for Dolly went considerably well; to say the least.
Samantha has stated that she wished she could have had the opportunity to have experienced Carol Channing’s iconic portrayal of Dolly Levi; she has no other gauge or reference other than the seemingly ancient video clips. Samantha hasn’t seen much else of her, and, to be honest, Carol Channing was a Dolly that Samantha had trouble relating to. The only other frame of reference for Samantha was Barbra Streisand’s portrayal of Dolly in the 1969 silver screen classic.

Samantha loves Streisand. She was able to relate to her instantly because she is Jewish; and, as a true New Yorker, Samantha really understood her. Streisand ultimately stood as a hero for Samantha, as she always – and still does – loved watching her perform.  


Weston High School has a great acting and theatre program; one that Samantha had been a part of since her freshman year. A casting notice went out that Dolly was going to be performed in the Spring, and Samantha quickly seized the opportunity to go after it; regardless what role she was offered. As the company would present two shows a year, Samantha was actively involved with all of the performances leading up to Dolly!. Without the intention of ever playing the role of Dolly, Samantha simply desired to be a member of the production. And, for her audition, she sang the unforgettable show tune, Memory, from Cats!

There were a couple of other students up for the role that Samantha considered stiff competition. After auditioning, she continued her life as any normal fifteen year old and never really concerned herself with the results. It only took a few days before she got the call. She didn’t know what to expect, but she certainly didn’t expect the lead!

She was excessively ecstatic to find out that she would be STARRING in her first show, AND that it was Hello, Dolly! Dolly had always been very important to Samantha, and had been everything that has inspired her to move forward in her acting endeavors. She also recognizes that it has been an inspiration and incredible influence in not only her life and journey, but furthermore to audiences all over the world who have experienced the show, and to every actress who have inspired Dolly. Again, Rehr was fifteen and going through the typical melodramatic troubles that most fifteen year olds go through – boys, school, and her low self-esteem – her roll as the remarkable Dolly Levi gave her a fresh perspective on life and new-found confidence! Samantha was playing a character that is supremely confident, intelligent, and witty. Dolly always knows what she is doing; never skipping a beat. Samantha considers the opportunity to portray this character brought her to a new – and significantly distinguished – level in her life.


Being that this was a high school production, there were only three performances. However, she does have a favorite moment: performing Before the Parade Passes By. That song is still one of Samantha’s favorite songs: “It really shows Dolly’s desperate courage.”

Because she was so young at the time, she focused mainly on learning her part as Dolly; maintaining admirable efforts to give Dolly incredible life and character. She furthermore sought out the “truth” in the character of Dolly; she did her absolute and personal best.

Samantha says that in any role, she drew upon her personal experiences; they of course being what they were at the time. Obviously, there is a huge gap between being a fifteen year old and playing a woman of a certain age who was a widow and rejoining the human race. However this character could be seemingly difficult for anyone to portray – let alone a fifteen year old – it was very simple for Samantha; she made her substitutions. The personality of Dolly also had experienced a loss and sadness in her lifetime; these experiences can certainly be considered acts of courage as well. Samantha had to find something in HER life that would help her to tap into that. It could have manifested in any of her various high school enterprises; from her efforts to be a good student, to aspiring to be a good daughter.

The opening night was encountered with the usual nervousness, as she recalls feeling her heart beating in her ankles. At one point, she flung her arms out at the closet door where Cornelius was hiding in Mrs. Molloy's Hat Shop. She looked over at Horace and completely blanked. She simply stared at Horace – for what seemed like a whole minute – before Horace spoke and saved the scene. She carries that profound memory with her. 

Dolly sets her goals in mind to marry Horace and put herself back out in the world. Those two objectives were easy for Samantha to focus in on, and everything else came very naturally.  


Samantha’s creative evolution with any role develops strongly during the rehearsal process. Five years after the fact, and now in college, Samantha’s methods and practices have become significantly more sophisticated.

Now, she independently conducts a considerable amount of research before hand, while also creates a complete character breakdown that she keeps in a journal.

It was Samantha’s involvement with Dolly that influenced her to pursue acting as a career, as her experience in portraying Dolly Levi opened her eyes to a myriad of creative opportunities in the theatre that she had never encountered before. Dolly gave her confidence; Dolly gave her pride.
Additionally, Samantha’s director, Damian Long, also had a huge impact on her, as he was Samantha’s director for all eight shows that she appeared in at Weston High School. Samantha acknowledges that he was very smart and always knew what to say to bring that “something extra” out of his actors.

Samantha is also a big fan of Cornelius Hackl's character. She considers him to be an extremely lovable personality, and believes that he would be a rewarding and fun role to play; given there were no restrictions in theatre.

Of all the wonderful qualities of Dolly Levi, for Samantha, finding courage is definitely the most challenging part of all of this. Not only is she faced with this challenge in playing the role of Dolly, but furthermore in the entire process of committing to acting as a career; pushing herself far beyond her comfort zone.

Samantha has a friend currently debating if he desires to stay in this rewarding, yet also at times, discouraging business. His heart is not COMPLETELY in it. Her advice to him – and anyone else reading this – is that you have to be one hundred percent sure. It is something she works incredibly hard at every single day. She is lucky that she does have so much passion for this art and is wholeheartedly committed to her work. For if she didn’t, she wouldn’t have grown and developed as remarkably and matured as she has.

This is what she HAS to do because it is innately who she is.

Hello, Dolly!, at fifteen, was a “kick in the butt”. However, in its defense, it got her theater ball rolling. As of this interview as a twenty year old woman, she reflects back on Dolly as a very real inspiration to admire and look up to. When she is the appropriate age, she would like to revisit her. She has taken all the qualities of Dolly and has incorporated them into her life; on and off the stage.

THAT is why Arts in Education is so vital!

(Photos: Courtesy: Samantha Rehr)


Thank you Samantha Rehr 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!





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


NO COPYRIGHT INFRINGEMENT INTENDED.  FOR ENTERTAINMENT PURPOSES ONLY!

Check out my blog tomorrow: Jeffrey B. Moss: A Director's Take on Hello, Dolly!

When it comes to the history of Jerry Herman’s brilliant production, beyond the 5000 plus performances of my own, even I turn to Richard Skipper when I have questions about the remarkable ladies who followed me in the role that the world fell in love with over 50 years ago.-Carol Channing

              

Thank you, to all the mentioned in this blog!


  
And Reserve today for
Richard Skipper Celebrates Jackie Joseph: LIVE at The Metropolitan Room in NYC! 
A benefit for Actors and Others For Animals (http://www.actorsandothers.com).

Jackie Joseph is an American character actress, voice artist, and writer known for portraying Alan Brady's niece Jackie on the Dick van Dyke Show, as well as the film characters of: Audrey Fulquard in the original The Little Shop of Horrors, Sheila Futterman in both Gremlins films, and the voice of Melody in the animated television series Josie and the Pussycats and Josie and the Pussycats in Outer Space
She was a regular on The Doris Day Show portraying Doris' friend, Jackie Parker and also famously played the love interest of Ernest T. Bass on The Andy Griffith Show as well as Imogene Harris, the eccentric love-interest of Mario (Jaime Farr) in Who's Minding The Mint…THAT’S JUST FOR STARTERS!
Richard and Jackie will sit down for an intimate chat to discuss her career and life and the people she has worked with for the first forty-five minutes.

Imagine "Inside the Actor's Studio" but with Richard Skipper's own personal style.
The last fifteen minutes will be comprised of questions from the audience.
Jackie will meet and greet the audience downstairs afterward.
Fifty percent of every cover will benefit Actors and OthersFor Animals
$20.00. Cover ($15.00 of every cover goes to Actors and Others for Animals)/Two drink minimum. Reservations a MUST: 34 W 22nd St  New York, NY 10010
You can purchase your tickets on The Metropolitan Room's website website at www.metropolitanroom.com as it is a direct way to pre-pay the Cover Charge.
(212) 206-0440

Win a chance to win a fabulous gift basket!
Please call with any questions you may have 845-365-0720

TWEET: Richard Skipper Celebrates Jackie Joseph: LIVE at The Metropolitan Room in NYC! For Actors and Others For Animals 7/3 @ 7PM


TILL TOMORROW...HERE'S TO AN ARTS FILLED DAY
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!                  
      





Sunday, June 23, 2013

Alex Chester: Minnie Faye, National Asian Artist’s Production of Hello, Dolly (April 2013)



Alex Chester in the National Asian Artist Project's Hello, Dolly! (Courtesy Alex Chester)
Alex Chester grew up in southern California. She started performing professionally at a very young age. At 5 she began her career in modeling, and was the cover for such magazines as Parenting, Woman’s Day, and Victoria Magazine. She modeled children’s clothing lines on The Home Show, along with posters for malls, catalogues, department store and newspaper ads.
It was in the genes. Alex’s mother was also a dancer. Alex was always exposed to theater growing up and she always knew from the get go that she desired to be on stage.  
With a successful modeling career underway Alex ventured into commercials and became the face that introduced the Chevy Geo to the world. Many commercials later Alex has once again introduced a new vehicle, this time the Ford Kuga to Europe.
Television followed commercials, including such shows as 7th Heaven, Boston Pubic, ER and The Closer. Alex filmed the title role in the Independent film, The Mermaid, produced by the award winning production company, Walter Robot Studios.
Alex even had a stint in the pop world as a member of the girl group, Dream, produced by P. Diddy.
Theatre has always been in Alex’s life. She  saw her first live production when she was 4.
with Jaygee Macapugay as Irene Molloy
By the age of 5 Alex had a role in Gigi at the now defunct Equity dinner theatre in Anaheim, The Grand. She worked for Norwegian Cruise Lines at the age of 7 playing Tootie in Meet Me In St. Louie, Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz in the Broadway Review, and singing for the Captain’s embarkation parties. Alex has been seen a Mary Rogers in the West Coast premier of The Will Rogers Follies, The Dead Girl in East/West Players production of Six Characters In Search of An Author, flying across the stage as Peter Pan, performing for the Royal National Theatre’s tour of An Inspector Calls, dancing as Eliza in The King and I at the Welk Resort, Punky Who in How The Grinch Stole Christmas at the Pantages Theatre, The Magic Carpet in Disney’s Aladdin Spectacular and Connie in A Chorus Line for the Berkshire Theatre Festival.
Alex has had the pleasure of working with Jeff Marx, co-creator of Ave Q, who wrote the role of Connie for her in his 15 minute musical, Oh God, We’re Gonna Die, the track of which can be heard at http://www.anmt.tv.
Alex is very pleased to have once again landed in Whoville, this time at Madison Square Gardens in December 2012.
Alex is currently working on her bachelor’s degree in theatre through St. Mary's College LEAP Program and was awarded The Caroline H. Newhouse Scholarship for Dancers.
All of this paved the way for her brilliant performance, evoking images of the original Sondra Lee, in the National Asian Artist’s Project’s Hello, Dolly, produced by Baayork Lee and directed by the most logical choice, Lee Roy Reams! With this production, fully staged, the company had a total of forty hours rehearsal. It was all helped by the fact that Lee Roy, assisted by Randy Slovacek, was so crystal clear about what he desired.  That clarity made Alex’s work very easy. Lee Roy knew EXACTLY what he wanted and how he wanted it done. 
All Alex had to do was take his direction and put it forth in the right direction.
Alex also had the added bonus of having done the show twice before. She didn’t play Minnie Fay at that time but it certainly influenced her as to who and what Minnie Fay is all about.
Both previous times that Alex did Dolly, she portrayed Ermengarde. She did it once at the Candlelight Pavilion Dinner Theater in California with Barbara Hendrickson as Dolly and once at The Welk Resort with Cathy Gene Greenwood.
With the National Asian Artist’s Project, Alex saw at Actor’s Equity that auditions were coming up. She definitely desired to now play Minnie Fay AND in this production. 
with Rebecca Lee Lerman as Ermengarde
It had been a goal of hers to play that part. It was a history making production. It was the first time this classic American musical was done by an all Asian-American Company. It is important to note that Asian American actors, as well as other nationalities and races should have the same opportunities that are afforded Caucasian actors.   
For her first initial audition, she sang The World Must Be Bigger than An Avenue, which is from another Gower Champion musical, Irene, which starred Debbie Reynolds. 
Baayork asked Alex if she could tap and Alex gave an affirmative. She then did a few shuffles and wings for Baayork. She was told she was wonderful and was called in for a callback. They gave her Minnie Fay’s “Cherries and Feathers” monologue and a scene with Mrs. Molloy. They also had her sing again. She got feedback from Lee Roy and repeated some of this. Watching and hearing him say some of the lines, Alex thought he would make a great Dolly! She would LOVE to see him play Dolly.
Lee Roy was at both auditions. Alex got the part the day after her callback.
When Alex is cast in a role, she likes to get the script right away. She likes to show up at the first rehearsal completely off book if possible and familiar with the music, especially when there is only going to be forty hours of rehearsal. Alex is quick with blocking. When she knows the script, she doesn’t need to write things down. She knows where she is required to be.
with Sam Tanabe as Barnaby
When in production, if she gets a big laugh, for example on a bit. She puts that in the back of her mind in order to replicate it. While doing this, the goal is to keep it very fresh, otherwise, it will get stale.  
After completing the two shows of this production, Alex walked away with self confidence in her work. She feels better as a performer after proving to herself that she could do this. She is also taking away wonderful new friendships that she made. It was an overall beautiful experience for Alex. She remembers seeing the 1994 tour with Carol Channing when she was a young girl.

The company, itself, had a huge impact on Alex.
When Alex was a few years younger, she worked on a cruise ship. One of the dancers in the show had appeared in the 1995 tour. She actually remembered seeing him in it. She would have loved to have been in his shoes and work with Carol Channing.
If there were NO restrictions, Alex would LOVE to play Cornelius. The character is so quirky and full of innocence and love and life and such a goofball that it must be a fun role to play.  
The most difficult moment for Alex occurred due to a missed rehearsal. She was out because of a call back. She literally had twenty minutes to pick up all of her steps for the Dancin’ number which is one of the most intricate aspects of the show. Everyone was gracious enough to let her out of rehearsal but it was a difficult pick-up. She ran it, they told her to remember it, and they moved on.
Alex is very happy with the entire end result with her involvement with this production. She, like Minnie, is a happy-go-lucky girl who has a bright outlook on life.
Hello, Dolly, to Alex has wonderful message about love and taking chances. It teaches everyone to live their
with Baayork Lee
lives the way they desire to live their lives.
Her favorite piece of music in the show is a piece that she was not of. It is the Waiter’s Gallop. She feels that it is truly perfect as originally conceived. She always loves the way that it integrates with the scene.   
As of this writing, Alex is in the process of getting her B.A. The advice that she would give to anyone desiring to go into this profession is “Don’t give up”. There is a lot of negativity and rejection in this business. It is the nature of the business.
Hello, Dolly, to Alex, once again is reaffirmation for one to never give up on their dreams and to go after what one desires in life and not wait for someone to hand it to you on a plate. She certainly lives by this philosophy!

Thank you Alex Chester for the gifts you have given to the world and will continue to give!
Can't wait to see your next appearance!


 With grateful XOXOXs ,

 
And don't miss my next special event!


RESERVE TODAY! Richard Skipper Celebrates Jackie Joseph: LIVE at The Metropolitan Room in NYC JULY 3rd at 7PM! A benefit for Actors and Others For Animals (http://www.actorsandothers.com).
Richard and Jackie will sit down for an intimate chat to discuss her career and life and the people she has worked with for the first forty-five minutes.
Imagine "Inside the Actor's Studio" but with Richard Skipper's own personal style.
The last fifteen minutes will be comprised of questions from the audience.

Jackie will meet and greet the audience downstairs afterward.

RICHARD SKIPPER  is a Storyteller! He is also a popular entertainer, theater historian and pop culture blogger. He has conducted over 500 interviews for his daily blog celebrating people in the arts and is currently writing a book to coincide with the 50th Anniversary of Hello, Dolly!, based also in part on his award-winning callondolly.com website chronicling the Broadway classic. He has covered several opening nights as the voice of Feinstein’s at Loews Regency and has conducted on-stage interviews for Carol Channing, Tommy Tune, Ron Young and Peggy Pope at Barnes & Noble and Queensboro Community College. (RichardSkipper.com and CallonDolly.com ) 2013 has been a breakout year for Richard. Richard was the associate producer of the 2010, 2012, 2013 Bistro Awards. He recently produced Peggy Herman’s CD Release Party at Feinsteins, directed by Peter Glebo and Tommy Tune, and it was an SRO success. He also Pamela Luss’ run at The Metropolitan Room, NYC. Richard can be seen in Dori Berenstein's CAROL CHANNING: LARGER THAN LIFE. Richard is now focused mostly on his writing and producing this year. He has a highly successful blog called RICHARD SKIPPER CELEBRATES, focusing on Artists and their body of "Worth" and what makes a great UNIQUE entertainer!

Jackie Joseph is an American character actress, voice artist, and writer known for portraying Alan Brady's niece Jackie on the Dick van Dyke Show, as well as the film characters of: Audrey Fulquard in the original The Little Shop of Horrors, Sheila Futterman in both Gremlins films, and the voice of Melody in the animated television series Josie and the Pussycats and Josie and the Pussycats in Outer Space. She was a regular on The Doris Day Show portraying Doris' friend, Jackie Parker and also famously played the love interest of Ernest T. Bass on The Andy Griffith Show as well as Imogene Harris, the eccentric love-interest of Mario (Jaime Farr) in Who's Minding The Mint…THAT’S JUST FOR STARTERS!
Fifty percent of every cover will benefit Actors and Others For Animals (http://www.actorsandothers.com).
$20.00. Cover ($10.00 of every cover goes to Actors and Others for Animals)/Two drink minimum. Reservations a MUST: 34 W 22nd St  New York, NY 10010
http://metropolitanroom.com/show.cfm?cart&id=104228
(212) 206-0440
Win a chance to win a fabulous gift basket!
Please call with any questions you may have 845-365-0720
TWEET: Richard Skipper Celebrates Jackie Joseph: LIVE at The Metropolitan Room in NYC! For Actors and Others For Animals 7/3 @ 7PM



Check out my site celebrating my forthcoming book on Hello, Dolly!
If any of you reading this have appeared in any production of Dolly, I'm interested in speaking with YOU!




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



NO COPYRIGHT INFRINGEMENT INTENDED.  FOR ENTERTAINMENT PURPOSES ONLY!





When it comes to the history of Jerry Herman’s brilliant production, beyond the 5000+ performances of my own, even I turn to Richard Skipper when I have questions about the remarkable ladies who followed me in the role that the world fell in love with over 50 years ago.”-Carol Channing

              
My next blog will be...Samantha Rehr: Hello, Dolly through the eyes of a fifteen year old High School Dolly!


Thank you, to all the mentioned in this blog!


  


TILL TOMORROW...HERE'S TO AN ARTS FILLED DAY
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!
         





Saturday, June 22, 2013

Klea Blackhurst: Goodspeed Opera’s very own Dolly Levi!



Hello, Klea!
When the curtain rises on Hello, Dolly at the Goodspeed Opera House, it will include two firsts. It will be the first time that Goodspeed Opera House has EVER produced this iconic musical. It is also interesting that the 50th anniversary of both the theater and Hello, Dolly are approaching. Another first is the NEW Dolly, Klea Blackhurst. It is the “perfect storm” of massive proportions!  Performances will play June 28-Sept. 15 at Goodspeed Opera House in East Haddam, CT.
The show, staged by Daniel Goldstein (Broadway’s Godspell), runs June 28 to Sept. 8, with the opening set at July 17.
Goldstein also staged the workshop production of The Unauthorized Autobiography of Samantha Brown at Goodspeed’s Norma Terris Theatre in Chester.
There have been so many actresses to precede Klea’s descent down those famed stairs of the Harmonia Gardens. Klea will be drawing on all of those that have gone before her for inspiration. There are moments that she would “gently” tip of her hat to a number of them. She won’t even tell the audience! When the audience sees those subtle touches, it will be remarkable. It is not a big deal. It is just a gentle nod to those Dollys that are beloved. Every time she utters, “wow, wow, wow, fellas…look at the old girl now fellas”, all that occurs to Klea is what Carol Channing brought to that moment in her mind’s eye. Klea did see Carol in the ’95 revival. 
It is more in her head or in her ear from the record. Certainly from seeing it, it is in her mind’s eye. Klea really hasn’t seen other Dollys other than Betty Marshall who was Dolly at Pioneer Theater many years ago. It was also there that Klea finished her Equity apprenticeship as part of the ensemble. Klea can only imagine what Marilyn Maye and Ginger Rogers, for example, brought to the role. What Klea does love is Shirley Booth’s portrayal of Dolly Levi in The Matchmaker. Klea also loves the idea of Ruth Gordon in the role. There are all of these images rolling around in Klea’s head. There are VERY FEW pointed moments in which Klea KNOWS what she is doing but she hopes that they are all rolled in there and will present themselves during her upcoming run at Goodspeed and play a part in what Klea is bringing to it almost fifty years after Hello, Dolly’s premier on Broadway. There have been so many actresses making Dolly their own…from the original guard on through the actresses of more recent memory. It is a fabulous legacy and it is a fabulous part for women and others. It is ALL there. Klea also knows that she has to SHOW UP fresh!
KLEA BLACKHURST is an actress, singer and comedienne who is best known for her award-winning tribute to Ethel Merman, Everything The Traffic Will Allow.
http://www.42ndstmoon.org/everything-the-traffic-will-allow

Among many accolades, this production earned her the inaugural Special Achievement Award from “Time Out New York” magazine and the recording of Everything the Traffic Will Allow was named one of the top ten show albums of 2002 by Talkin’ Broadway.com.  She has played several iconic roles of the Merman cannon including Mama Rose in Gypsy.
It is a well known fact that Hello, Dolly was written for Ethel Merman. However, after appearing in Gypsy for four years (two years on Broadway and two years on the road), she turned Jerry Herman and David Merrick down. Jerry, especially, was crestfallen. The very first Broadway show he ever saw was Annie Get Your Gun starring Merman. The bug bit and he always dreamed of writing a show for Merman. When Dolly came his way, here was his opportunity. The score was written with her mind. Not only did she turn them down, she didn’t even desire to hear the score for fear that she would either regret her decision or possibly change her mind. That decision, on her part, of course, led the ball rolling towards Carol Channing and a long line of Dollys! Merman finally gave in at the end of the run and came out of her “retirement from Broadway” and ended the run. By her involvement, they were able to extend the record set by My Fair Lady and became the longest running show. It had opened on January 16, 1964, at the St. James Theatre and closed on December 27, 1970, after 2,844 performances. When the show opened,Carol Channing starred as Dolly, with a supporting cast that included David Burns as Horace, South Pacific, a record that remained unbroken for 37 years until The Producers won twelve Tonys in 2001.
David Burns and Carol Channing (Source unknown)
Charles Nelson Reilly as Cornelius, Eileen Brennan as Irene, Jerry Dodge as Barnaby, Sondra Lee as Minnie Fay, Alice Playten as Ermengarde, and Igors Gavon as Ambrose. Although facing competition from Funny Girl with Barbra Streisand, Hello, Dolly! swept the Tony Awards that year, winning awards in ten categories (out of eleven nominations) that tied the musical with the previous record keeper

After Channing left the show, Merrick employed a string of prominent actresses to play Dolly, including Ginger Rogers, Martha Raye, Betty Grable, Pearl Bailey (in an all-black version with Cab Calloway, Mabel King, Clifton Davis, Ernestine Jackson and a young Morgan Freeman), Phyllis Diller, and Ethel Merman.
 When Channing took over Dolly, two songs that had been written for Merman were cut due to the vast differences between Channing and Merman. Those songs, Love, Look in My Window, a ballad, and World, Take Me Back, a rousing Ethel Merman showstopper, never were heard UNTIL Merman came into the show. 
Ethel Merman (Source unknown)
Merman wanted to hear those songs when she finally acquiesced. She desired to them and they were both added to her run without cutting anything else just adding another ten minutes to the show.
Because those songs are so closely associated with Merman, they are rarely done in any subsequent productions of Dolly. One or both songs HAVE been added to some productions, depending, of course, upon the actress playing the part.
Due to the association of Klea and Merman, there was much excitement among when Blackhurst was announced as Dolly that audiences would once again hear those songs making Klea’s Dolly very much like Merman’s Dolly. The first thing that people ask Klea about on this production is whether or not those songs will be sung. Comments and speculation started appearing everywhere.    
The decision was made NOT to incorporate those songs into this production. As Goodspeed embarked on this production, it was never anyone’s wish to add those songs. Klea did not push or fight for that because the more she thinks about it, she honestly feels in her heart that unless she WAS Ethel Merman, which she is not, coming to the role, seven years into the run, those songs don’t add anything for the “average” person. What Klea is hoping is that there will be a moment somewhere and somehow in the months ahead of her that she will be allowed to share World, Take Me Back, if not both of them, in some sort of other format. Quite frankly, when Klea got this job, she auditioned for it, fair and square. She didn’t come to it as any kind of a person with a “persona” and this “expertise” she has. She was being invited to audition as an actress. Therefore, she has no problem with not doing these songs. She loves them, of course. Klea says, “The real truth is that when you stop and really look at it, Hello, Dolly is perfectly crafted as it came to past with Carol Channing. Those songs are like an added bonus for those of us who care. But I don’t know that anybody really needs that from me. It is a matter of controversy. ”

There have been a couple of high profile Dollys in the past five years that Klea has had the privilege of auditioning for.
At the time of each of these auditions, she was desperate to book the job. Over the course of the past five years, she has done a lot of reading and re-reading of The Matchmaker. She has also read of Dolly’s history and Jerry Herman’s point of view. She also has the added layer of her love of Merman and doing her own show and having that whole angle on it. When she didn’t get those jobs, she was crestfallen at the time. There is now no question in her mind that THIS is HER Dolly. Klea says, “With the 50th anniversary at Goodspeed, they’ve never done it. I’ve never done it. I’m a little bit further along in my own path. I feel so right about this being where I’m supposed to be and having never approached it really in the nuts and bolts of it before.” She couldn’t have been happier to march into the Drama Book Store and buy the score with that tax write off being a legitimate write off this year! She began by sitting down and making sure she had all of the lyrics correct in terms of what was actually in the score. She started bugging Goodspeed immediately for her copy and a script a good six weeks prior to the first company read through.
As of this interview (June 18th, 2013), they had their first designer run on Saturday. The show is now completely on its feet. It has one more week in the rehearsal room, polishing and finishing before she “loses all will to live during tech.” She has no question that that is going to happen. She keeps saying to herself, ‘this will work, right?” as she ponders the size of the stage at The Goodspeed Opera House. As of this writing, their current production is Good News!
Sketch of Pearl Bailey as Dolly
Klea has seen it twice. They have been this fifty years so Klea knows it will fit on the stage. She feels that tech will be a humbling recalibrating process. Right now, it feels wonderful. The promise they have this week is getting to run it once in its entirety every day this week.
Klea is already pretty far along in the process. She desires to be so word perfect. That is a major goal of hers. That is true of most actresses. Sometimes, in most instances with MOST productions of Dolly, the rehearsal process is very short. That lends itself to paraphrasing and the like. Klea is in their digging and trying to get every single word right.
Klea got cast in February. When the curtain comes down on this production in September, a good seven and a half months will have been spent with Klea inhabiting Dolly Levi and vice versa. With where her personal like is currently in real life, and the changes that are taking place, she has to say that this show feels like a blessing to her at this point in her life. She did Gypsy for her last year, another first. She almost feels as if Dolly is a much more difficult to execute.
http://chicagotheaterbeat.com/2012/01/27/review-gypsy-drury-lane-oakbrook/
It’s heavy lifting but it doesn’t weigh very much. Whereas Gypsy feels like heavy lifting and it feels heavy. The main thing that Klea has noticed is that in Gypsy, twenty years elapse. In Dolly, from start to finish, it’s one day!  Klea is already adopting the fundamental message that Thornton Wilder started with. There is a message of jumping into life without knowing what the outcome will be, deciding to be fully engaged, deciding to be a fool among fools rather than being a fool alone. Hello, Dolly is a full affirmation.

Klea was thinking recently how brilliant The Matchmaker is as source material. That alone really takes off and sings without a note of music. The hope is also when there is a musical adaptation of a work, for it to work. Sometimes they just DON’T. It is an equation that needs some alchemy to really get these things to fly sometimes.
Hello, Dolly is one of those projects in which Michael Stewart and Jerry Herman and Carol Channing and Gower Champion all coming together in that combination really created something magical that Klea feels so blessed to be part of. “We tell ourselves to be in the moment; the past is over and the future hasn’t happened yet.”
Klea finds that when she does this at her moment right now, her life IS Hello, Dolly!  She is under contract and obligated legally to have her lesson be this beautiful piece. Klea has no doubt that she will step away from this summer and step into the autumn with a huge gift that she has been given. She has also been given the enormous gift of a four week rehearsal period PLUS the week of tech BEFORE even unveiling what she is trying to come up with. Almost anyone in the business now knows that that is a very luxurious thing! Klea is very grateful for that. She is also grateful to be running it for the span of time she has. They are also adding additional performances due to demand. Hello, Dolly is a show where people sit up and take notice. They don’t have to even know very much about who is their Dolly or Horace.
They just know that they desire to go and experience Dolly once again. It is ALREADY a good show for Goodspeed. It is going to be a huge part of Klea’s life. The number of performances under her belt when all is said and done is a wonderful thing to contemplate come September 15th.
It is not difficult for Klea to play as an actress. “Dolly Levi is a brilliant improve artist. It is interesting to decide how much is calculated with what she decides to do throughout the course of the play and how much of it is ‘Well, I really wasn’t expecting that to happen, but now that it’s happened, I’m going to take a left turn here to still get my way to get to my ultimate goal.’ As a person, I wish I had a fraction of that absolute ability to steam roll through to get to the final goal. Deciding what is what in this piece and not just having it be that she is the ultimate deus ex machine that never takes in any of these roadblocks is not as much fun as ‘Holy smoke! I wasn’t expecting that!’ and rolling right through that. It is that indomitable spirit that Dolly has. ”
Are there any flaws in Dolly or is it a perfect show? “When Barnaby counts his money in the first act, he has about forty-five cents less than he has in the second act! Who wrote that? I don’t know! In terms of the structure of the show, I really don’t think there are any flaws.”
Klea is taking the words and the music and what they say through the process of studying it all and then applying her process. She has to bring herself to the table. In other words, those are her hands and her legs and her voice and she has to act and sing it. Klea desires HER Dolly to have a warmth to her that is very likable.
It should not be an annoying quality. By “annoying”, Klea is using a word to describe that non stop way that she talks and walks and wins people over. She desires all of that to have a great warmth to it and a realness that makes this person genuinely likable and not just a “musical comedy force of nature”. Carol Channing as a personality and a persona and as a woman is extremely heightened in the reality that she presents to what we have known of her over the years. HER Dolly would HAVE to be different from all other Dollys because her Dolly coming through is such a unique woman.
Klea believes all other Dollys from Ginger Rogers on have had to bring their ‘real person’ to the table and put on all those words and all that music and, once again, Klea is hoping for a sense of reality and a sense of warmth that will inform the comedy.
Klea is beginning to realize the older that she gets that there is a cannon of roles for women just as there is Shakespeare for a certain population of the acting profession. Some desire to visit Hamlet. Some desire to visit King Lear. Hello, Dolly is also one of those shows. As a kid, loving musical theater and being aware of it, it is one of the shows that is RIGHT THERE in the bull’s eye, There is really no chance in Klea’s experience that it would have escaped her eye.
It feels to her like it was just one of those songs that she marched around singing those songs and that Jerry Herman thing happened to her and it means everything to her to now have the opportunity to sing these songs. She doesn’t know how, as a child of thirteen and fourteen, sometimes words and music work together in a way that she KNEW what they meant even though much of life, she had not experience. In the scheme of things, the true meaning of Before the Parade Passes By probably passed her by in the seventh grade and yet, somehow, it is on such a primary level that it delivered. It just feels like one of those things that as an actress in theater and a lover of musical comedy in particular, and especially that era in our history, this is just one that most want to experience on either side of the footlights. When one is “worth their salt” and around long enough, the desire is for it to come your way. Klea feels blessed in her case that it is Goodspeed. When she heard Dolly was on Goodspeed’s roster, she went after it. Not to denigrate any other production, but she feels so blessed that HER Hello, Dolly, her first (if she is lucky, there will be others), is not a “three weeks in” and she is out!
A week and a half of rehearsals and a week and a half of performing and she’s on to the next as is the case in most summer stock scenarios. This is a legitimate gorgeous production. All of her costumes are made specifically to fit Klea’s body. This is an unbelievable gift and Klea cannot believe her good fortune.
Klea wishes that she could have seen Carol Channing in early ‘64 at the height of HER Dolly. She thinks that would be a thrilling time to time travel. She, of course, would have loved to have seen Merman. She would It’s Today persona. Klea has no doubt that Marilyn’s Dolly had a great deal of irrepressible joy in it. Klea would have loved to have seen all the Dollys, quite frankly. She would have loved to be able to offer an educated opinion of all the Broadway Dollys. Because of her love that curiosity also extends to other women who have played Dolly. Because of where she is standing now, she is okay with having not seen too many of them.
Marilyn Maye as Dolly Levi
have also loved to have seen Marilyn Maye. She would love to have seen Marilyn with her joy of life and her
Klea is also lucky to have an incredible leading man, Tony Sheldon. He is a good foil for her and she is loving working with him. Gravitating towards him is feeling very natural. She is also loving the foursome of Jeremy Morse as Barnaby Tucker, Spencer Moses as Cornelius Hackl,Catherine Blades as Minnie Fay, and Ashley Brown,(who created the title role in Broadway’s “Mary Poppins”),as Irene Molloy. They are fantastic and Klea is also really in love with her Ermengarde (Brooke Shapiro). Klea is convinced she is going to grow up to be a Dolly in about thirty years! Klea has told her that she is a classic character lady but that she doesn’t
get the opportunity to play this role for at least that amount of time because that is how the math works in this business.
Choreography is by Kelli Barclay (Goodspeed’s Hello, My Baby, My One And Only and How To Succeed…) Music direction is by Michael O’Flaherty, who is in his 22nd season at Goodspeed.
F. Wade Russo is assistant music director. Orchestrations will be provided by Dan DeLange, who has created the orchestrations for numerous Goodspeed productions.

 The ensemble includes: Maddy Apple, Will Burton, Jack Doyle, Steve Geary, Drew Humphrey, Matthew Kilgore, Frankie Paparone, Kristyn Pope, Robbie Smith, Kathryn Lin Terza, and Melodie Wolford. The swings are Melissa Chaty and Gregory Dassonville.
Ashley Brown

Klea feels that it is important that this legacy of Hello, Dolly SHOULD be written down and make sure that it is all there for her Ermengarde to grow up and play Dolly, that it exists and documented for future generations.
If Klea could be anyone connected with Dolly, past, present, or fictional, she would choose to be Gower Champion! What was it like to be in his head and have this show spring to life in the way in which it did and set everything in motion in this kind of a magical way. Ethel Merman also comes to mind. Klea loves that moment in her mind and the way that it plays out imagining her going down to Jerry Herman’s house and asking to hear those songs and the image that Jerry talks about oh him being in tears when he heard her sing them.
Jerry Herman and cast at the opening of La Cage aux Folles
photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN
It took him back to the time of a little boy seeing her in Annie Get Your Gun. That defining moment was what set Jerry Herman into motion. Klea loves that image so much. Even though Merman isn’t really an integral part of this story, she truly IS! The Merman connection is vital to Klea and what is riding to the earliest raw current and she feels that that is rather exciting.

The floodgates are about to open! Once the curtain rises on Dolly/Klea, it is a non stop journey to the finish line of September 15th. It has become very clear to Klea already that she needs to treat her body like a first class athlete! She admits that in recent months she has put on a few pounds. She reached a point where she didn’t want to exercise, which was psychological in her head. She realizes that she is involved in a show like no other that she has ever experienced. Since she has been in East Haddam at The Goodspeed, she has had the added inspiration through Georgia Osborne, Klea has been continuing to go to Weight Watchers, something she began at the beginning of the year. She has been tracking her points, making sure that she is eating really healthy food. What little Klea knows of Carol Channing, she knew how to eat well and maintain her stamina. She knew how to make her body run really efficiently, a real good pioneer in that area, Klea thinks. Klea is eating well, walking, and skipping rope! Klea has been in boxing training the last six years. She has primarily been off of that the past year, but skipping rope for three minutes is virtually impossible! She does it like a boxer. She skips rope for three minutes and then takes a one minute break. Adding the costumes is going to add both a literal and a psychological layer as well. It is just going to be exhausting. Klea learned from her run in Gypsy that when she is resting, just rest! She doesn’t need to feel bad about it. She doesn’t need to be multi-tasking. “When you have the gift of this kind of work, it is your duty and the theater is depending on you.” Klea is perfectly happy to take naps and get her stamina built up. This is very analogous to looking forward to a marathon.
Klea’s hope is that audiences who will see her Dolly over the coming months will enjoy themselves in a way that is deceptively simple. She feels that Hello, Dolly is such a gift as a performer performing it and as an audience experiencing it that she hopes that she is able to convey goose bumps in the places that she feels they belong because she receives them herself. She wants everyone to walk away with a sense of what a gift life is and what an opportunity it is to stop and make the choice to engage in your life and make it happen and not just let it happen to you. She hopes that that will be a really visceral connection that she has and that she can give to Goodspeed’s audiences without having them feel that she has been trying to give them anything but a good show. She thinks the message inherent in this piece is so beautiful that she feels so privileged to be right where she is today and being asked to be Goodspeed’s Dolly and being able to deliver it.
Those of us who see Klea Blackhurst as Dolly are the lucky ones.
Visit goodspeed.org for more info.

Thank you Klea Blackhurst for the gifts you have given to the world and will continue to give!

With grateful XOXOXs ,


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


NO COPYRIGHT INFRINGEMENT INTENDED.  FOR ENTERTAINMENT PURPOSES ONLY! (Photos used in this blog




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... Celebrating Alex Chester! Minnie Faye: The National Asian Artist's Production of Hello, Dolly!

“When it comes to the history of Jerry Herman’s brilliant production, beyond the 5000 plus performances of my own, even I turn to Richard Skipper when I have questions about the remarkable ladies who followed me in the role that the world fell in love with over 50 years ago.”-Carol Channing

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Richard Skipper, Richard@RichardSkipper.com                            

 
This Blog is dedicated to ALL DOLLYS (Past, Present, and Future) and ANYONE who has EVER had a connection with ANY of them on ANY Level! 
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And Reserve Today for MY Next Event!
Richard Skipper Celebrates Jackie Joseph: LIVE at The Metropolitan Room in NYC JULY 3rd at 7PM!


A benefit for Actors and Others For Animals (http://www.actorsandothers.com).
Richard and Jackie will sit down for an intimate chat to discuss her career and life and the people she has worked with for the first forty-five minutes in a VERY RARE New York appearance!
Imagine "Inside the Actor's Studio" but with Richard Skipper's own personal style.
The last fifteen minutes will be comprised of questions from the audience.
Jackie will meet and greet the audience downstairs afterward.
RICHARD SKIPPER  is a Storyteller! He is also a popular entertainer, theater historian and pop culture blogger. He has conducted over 500 interviews for his daily blog celebrating people in the arts and is currently writing a book to coincide with the 50th Anniversary of Hello, Dolly!, based also in part on his award-winning callondolly.com website chronicling the Broadway classic. He has covered several opening nights as the voice of Feinstein’s at Loews Regency and has conducted on-stage interviews for Carol Channing, Tommy Tune, Ron Young
and Peggy Pope at Barnes & Noble and Queensboro Community College. (RichardSkipper.com and CallonDolly.com )
2013 has been a breakout year for Richard. Richard was the associate producer of the 2010, 2012, 2013 Bistro Awards. He recently produced Peggy Herman’s CD Release Party at Feinsteins, directed by Peter Glebo and Tommy Tune, and it was an SRO success.
He produced Pamela Luss’ run at The Metropolitan Room, NYC which was a huge success. Richard can be seen in Dori Berenstein's CAROL CHANNING: LARGER THAN LIFE.
Richard is now focused mostly on his writing and producing this year. He has a highly successful blog called RICHARD SKIPPER CELEBRATES, focusing on Artists and their body of "Worth" and what makes a great UNIQUE entertainer!

Jackie Joseph is an American character actress, voice artist, and writer known for portraying Alan Brady's niece Jackie on the Dick van Dyke Show, as well as the film characters of: Audrey Fulquard in the original The Little Shop of Horrors, Sheila Futterman in both Gremlins films, and the voice of Melody in the animated television series Josie and the Pussycats and Josie and the Pussycats in Outer Space.
Photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN
Jackie was a regular on The Doris Day Show portraying Doris' friend, Jackie Parker and also famously played the love interest of Ernest T. Bass on The Andy Griffith Show as well as Imogene Harris, the eccentric love-interest of Mario (Bob Denver) in Who's Minding The Mint…THAT’S JUST FOR STARTERS!
Fifty percent of every cover will benefit Actors and OthersFor Animals 

$20.00. Cover ($10.00 of every cover goes to Actors and Others for Animals)/Two drink minimum. Reservations a MUST: 34 W 22nd St  New York, NY 10010
http://metropolitanroom.com/show.cfm?cart&id=104228
(212) 206-0440
Also…a  chance to win a fabulous gift basket!
Please call with any questions you may have 845-365-0720