Gary Beach's thoughts on Hello, Dolly!
|Gary Beach as Horace Vandergelder and Vicki Lewis as Dolly Gallagher Levi tuck into some Harmonia Gardens chicken in 'Hello, Dolly!' at the Maltz Jupiter Theatre. Alicia Donelan|
He co-starred opposite Vicki Lewis and was directed by Tony nominated (Ragtime) Marcia Milgrom Dodge. Burt Reynolds owned the dinner theater from 1979 until 1997. When it exchanged hands, the theater was reconfigured to become a proscenium theater. There were a lot of clever staging ideas in director-choreographer Marcia Milgrom Dodge’s fresh take on Hello, Dolly!
He will be returning to Vandergelder's Hay and Feed Store in June wjen he plays opposite Lorna Luft as they open up North Shore Music Theater's Summer Season.
Gary and I spoke last week and he began the interview by telling me that Hello, Dolly! is the one show he has seen more than any other. He has also appeared with TWO of the most iconic Dollys when he appeared opposite Carol Channing AND Mary Martin in Legends!
About nine months ago, Gary was having lunch with the producer of MJT. He was told that the theater had just chosen its next season. When he was told that the season would be closing with Hello, Dolly!, Gary told him that he would do Horace Vandergelder for them. Gary suggested doing it with a friend of his from Southern California (Since she didn't do it, Gary didn't reveal her name). Then Marcia called Gary and asked, "Why not Vicki Lewis?" Gary and Vicki had done an off-Broadway show together about thirty years ago. They have remained in touch and Gary told Marcia that he thought it was the most interesting idea he had ever heard. She was so far and away different from anyone he had ever seen play the role. That's how it all came about. Gary just volunteered to do it. When he moved to Florida, he had no intention of working in the theater scene there. However, Dolly! seemed like it would be so much fun.
|Ruth Gordon as Dolly Gallagher Levi in The Matchmaker|
|Photo credit: Alicia Donelan|
|Sandi Patty as Dolly|
Charles Repole will be directing. Repole made his Broadway debut in Very Good Eddie in 1975, earning a Tony Award nomination and a Theatre World Award for his performance. Additional Broadway credits include the 1979 revival of Whoopee!, which garnered him a Drama Desk Award nomination, Doubles (1985), and Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1995), which he directed. Gary is very excited to be co-starring with Lorna Luft. He has never worked with her before. He went on YouTube to check her out! I saw her at Paper Mill Playhouse in December in White Christmas. She was fantastic! She is at the top of her game.
Sandi Patty starring in "Hello, Dolly!" presented by the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra at the Hilbert Circle Theater.. Credit: Thomas J. Russo
Gary feels his best moment in the show takes place at the end. "It's such a crumble that this guy does." He goes upstairs, distributes the cash that everyone wants, comes down stairs, gets on one knee and basically says, "I've been wrong for too the last two hours!." It's very Thorton Wilder. Very human. Gary finds it tough to do, especially in rehearsal because he finds it so sweet, so wonderful, so human. "I just blubber." Gary found himself channeling his father. "He had a certain swagger about him. He was very genuine". That's what Gary wanted Horace to convey in that last scene. Jerry Herman told Gary that he loved him as Horace.
|Gary Beach, Jerry Herman, Vicki Lewis, Artistic director Andrew Kato, Fran Weissler|
Gary played Zaza. Gary had so much fun. When they brought Robert Goulet in, the show brighted up for Gary so much. He says Goulet was a wonderful person to share the stage with. He just adored him.
Gary remembers how much he loved the original cast album of Dolly. He was a teenager when that came out. He didn't see the out of town tryout of Dolly although he was in DC at the time it was playing. Years later, he was in Dallas, Texas, doing tryouts for Legends! Carol and Charles Lowe, who was so kind to him, invited him to dinner with a guy Gary got to know from DC, Richard Coe, the drama critic for The Washington Post. He was there to see Legends! and possibly offer some advice. The conversation over dinner turned to Dolly! Carol said it was because of Richard Coe that Dolly became such a big hit, that he gave them all the right advice. Gary has always thought that was such a sweet thing from an actor to a critic. Gary said it was fun to be at that dinner that night and hear them all reminisce about a show he loves so much.
|with Shayla Benoit as Ernestina Photo: Alicia Donelan|
I asked Gary about the first performance down in Florida. He said it was great fun. The cast and crew were prepared. The audience did not know what to expect, however. They were there to see Hello, Dolly! What they were seeing did not look anything at all like what they were expecting. Being Florida, they have a "mature" audience. They had a unit set, designed by Paul DePoo, that really did the trick. Audiences loved it! One moment the set was the Hay and Feed store. The next moment, it was the locale for the 14th Street Parade. It was all done with lighting, designed by Paul Miller.
The biggest change that Gary has seen since he made his Broadway debut is that shows are not as personality driven anymore. Gary misses that. The "revival craze that is in it's second decade has become stupefyingly boring! "Oh, boy! Let's do Gypsy again!" Gary's advice is to write another "Gypsy". It's hit a bad spot. He's coming to New York for a few weeks to rehearse for North Shore. When he thinks about what he wants to see, his response is "nothing!". He may be seeing The Best Man on my recommendation. The last time he was in New York, he saw Book of Mormon and War Horse...loved both!
Gary says, contrary to what he feels about revivals, that it is time for a revival and a resurgence and interest in Dolly! I hope that my book does this. He would like to see a "re-thinking" with an homage to the original. He says as he is out and about since doing Dolly in Florida that people have come up to him saying, "I thought I knew Hello, Dolly!" This production spoke differently to people. Marcia did not set out to re-invent the wheel. She did, however, set out to tell the story a little bit more quietly. Thorton Wilder and Jerry Herman are so brilliant that it can be done.
Interesting story. Gary did The Producers at the St. James Theater where Hello, Dolly! played. He picked his dressing room when they moved in on the second floor. It was fabulous. He loved it, with windows looking outside on 44th Street. All the things that you very rarely see in old theaters. There was a wall that he wanted taken down. The wall came down after 45 years! To find out WHY the wall was up in the first place, read Sondra Lee's (original Minnie Fay) memoir, "I've Slept With Everybody"
Thank you, Gary, for the gifts you have given and continue to give to the world and I cannot wait to celebrate you and Lorna Luft in person June at The North Shore Music Theatre!
Your devoted fan,
Thank you, Linnea Brown and staff of Maltz Jupiter Theatre for some of the photos in today's blog.
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Tomorrow's blog will be..My exclusive interview with Gordon Connell, The Judge in the original production of Hello, Dolly! and David (Horace Vandergelder) Burns standby!
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