Frank Anzalone (Director of Hello, Dolly at The Walnut Street Theater in Philadelphia 2004)
Frank directed Hello, Dolly at The Walnut Street Theater in Philadelphia in the Spring of 2004. This was not the first time he directed Dolly. In the seventies and eighties, he did five dinner theater productions of it! These productions were done in Philadelphia and Maryland. This was in four different theaters.
These were not with major names but all of his Dollys have had respectable careers. The first time he directed, it was in Maryland and there were two people connected with that show who were pretty spiffy. He had Jean Anne Kain, a well-known Columbia musical performer and dinner theater pioneer as his Dolly Levi. She has since passed on but at that time she was known as the Queen of the Dinner Theater Circuit.
|Jean Anne Kaine as DOLLY|
Frank’s credentials include a Masters Degree in directing from Catholic University in Washington DC where he taught and directed. For twenty-three years, he was the production stage manager at The Walnut Street Theater in Philadelphia. During his tenure at the Walnut, he was very fortunate to be able to direct several productions on the main stage there.
He did a production of 1776 that starred James Brennan with costume designer Gail Cooper Hecht. He did a production of Anything Goes in 1998 on a replica Tony Walton’s bus and truck tour set. Then Hello, Dolly came along in 2004.
|Susan Bigelow as Mrs. Molloy|
That is what he is most known for because this has been a significant chunk of his life.
The production of Hello, Dolly happened as a result of Frank suggesting it. He told them he thought it would be a great production. It was on their list of shows that they desired to do. They did five shows a season, three of those were musicals. Ultimately, it was inevitable that this show was going to come to be. When a theater does three musicals a year, and they’ve been doing this for years, at some point, they are going to do Hello, Dolly!
A lot of people stay away from Dolly for many reasons.
|Call on Dolly — with Amy Halldin.|
Gail wasn’t able to find everything when they went on their search.
The entire collection has been spread out over the years. In the original production, except for Dolly, all of the costumes were in sepia tones. The backdrop was also in sepia tones. When Carol/Dolly arrives in bright tangerine orange, against all that sepia, it was magnificent. When Put on Your Sunday Clothes happens with all those hot electric colors, WOW!
|With Julian Brightman, Deborah Jean Templin and Anne Schwantes.|
|With Julian Brightman and Roger Preston Smith.|
The road to Broadway is interesting. Act One ended with Vandergelder singing Penny in My Pocket about how he amassed his wealth. Second stop, The National Theater in Washington DC, Jerry Herman writes Before the Parade Passes By based on a suggestion from Charles Strouse.
There are persistent rumors that Bob Merrill wrote both Elegance and The Motherhood March. There could be an entire encyclopedia on the costumes, scenery, and music alone, the tricks, the props. Frank says he could discuss this show for hours.
With each production, there were various points of attack in casting the show, height differentials, voice types, hair color…Michael McGurk dyed his hair blonde.
Barnaby should be blonde. It makes him more adorable, the same thing with Minnie Fay.
There are various points of view when a director is casting the six principal roles. It is very telling in how the director sees the show. In casting Mrs. Molly, Frank desires to cast a deliciously sensual actress who can show a widow being brought out of her shell by falling in love with this exuberant clerk who works for Vandergelder. She is able to find love in her life through this adventure that she takes in New York. The powers that be must be careful in how the cast the role. The actress must be able to make that transition from widow who is closed to any type of romance and very guarded.
Before interviewing for this project, Frank was reading something on line about the casting of the film. Marianne McAndrew, who was cast as Irene Molloy in the film, was dubbed. There is documented footage of Ann-Margret’s screen test for this role in costume and on the set singing Ribbons Down My Back.
It’s extraordinary. Why was she not cast in the film? From the screen test alone, one sees how brilliant she would have been in the film. Was it Barbra Streisand’s decision? Gene Kelly’s? 20th Century Fox’s? Ann-Margret’s? Who knows?
How much influence did Streisand have at that time. Much has been written and said about the fact that Matthau and Streisand did not get along.
The costumes for the film are also all wrong in Frank’s opinion. The metallic gold Harmonia Gardens dress that Barbra wore for the title number, designed by Irene Sharif, was recently sold by Debbie Reynolds.
It was in her possession for years. The film just does not work for Frank.
If they were to cast the show today, Frank would love to see someone like Bette Midler because of her voice and comedic ability.
The choreographer for Dolly at Walnut Street Theater was Bill Bateman. Bill had worked on both the ’78 and 95 revivals, so he knew the choreography like the back of his hand and basically, they recreated that choreography. They made some cuts in the Dancing number. Frank has a favorite creation of his that has followed him with all of the productions that Bill was willing to put into effect. Frank feels that this was a real highpoint of his productions. They were not able to build that huge locomotive and caboose that is so much a part of Put on Your Sunday Clothes. When Frank was doing Hello, Dolly back in the Seventies and Eighties on a much smaller scale, they created a train by building a two dimensional locomotive that Cornelius was inside of to pick up and move forward with and Barnaby inside a two dimensional caboose which helped to form a human train. Barnaby has that famous line, Holy Cabooses!” which is where Frank got the idea for this. Between Cornelius and Barnaby was a train of chorus people in the rainbow colored costumes. The women had parasols and the parasols were spinning like wheels. They had the passarelle and this human train traveled all around the passarelle incorporating the Broadway choreography, thanks to Bill.
|adorable Michael McGurk as Barnaby Tucker|
Dolly at the Walnut Street Theater was Deborah-Jean Templin. Deborah-Jean, as of this writing, is out with a tour that she created of the famous women who were on the Titanic, The Unsinkable Women.
Deborah has performed this show all over the country for the past several years. She did the first production in the Studio Theater at The Walnut. She has been on National tours of Mamma Mia. She was also on the National tour of Titanic. She is a delightful woman, She also played Miss Hannigan in Annie at The Walnut. She was a breath of fresh air as Dolly Levi.
Chris Gross (Ambrose), Nina Fluke (Ermengarde) & DJ
Then there is the love story between Cornelius Hackl and Irene Molloy. Dolly creates that. If the audience does not believe that she is the creator of all of this magic rooted in reality, the show becomes a cartoon and that must not happen.
Frank’s direction bears no resemblance to Gower Champion’s. Frank is not sure what Bill brought over with his choreography.
As of this writing, it has been eight years since the Walnut Street Theater production.
For the most part, it was the original choreography. Bill had to make adjustments because they were limited in the number of dancers. There are limitations in regional theater.
|Courtesy: Dori Berenstein, Dramatic Forces|
One of the most intricate dance numbers is The Waiter’s Gallop. If one were to come on to that piece of music with no knowledge of the show, or what the choreography was, is really stymied as to how that Gallop is to be performed.
It calls for a myriad of bizarre props, a turkey that is skewered with a sword, dishes that are teetering and tottering.
One of the things that Frank discovered over the years was how to do the dumplings in the eating scene with Dolly. She has to keep stuffing these dumplings in her mouth. The first time he directed Hello, Dolly, they used honeydew and cantaloupe melons. It was the only thing they could use that their Dolly could swallow easily and quickly. As time went on, he learned the tricks of the trade of the dumpling making. Over the years with his research, he discovered that the first production of Dolly starring Carol Channing, they used pink cotton candy as the dumplings.
Casey Colgan & Anne Connors: showstoppers in elegance and class — with Anne Schwantes
By the time she had gotten back to Broadway with the ’78 revival, she was having trouble with the cotton candy.
|The Hat Shop — with Elise Joan and Lisa Gunn.|
"Dolly" then places them to the side of her mouth to the pocket of her jaw. When she is done eating and takes her napkin to dry her mouth, she spits them unbeknownst to the audience into her napkin. It is a fascinating piece of business. It is one piece of business that most people ask about when they decide to do a production of Dolly.
the delightful Elise Joan as Minnie Fay
It sits in his living room. Frank says he is insane when it comes to this show.
There are two things that Dolly has that touches Frank on a personal level. She’s a magician. She’s an exasperating creature to some who watch her in action from the moment she arrives on stage in that horse cart. Frank loves her because she is all about life. She is first and foremost a survivor. She has survived the passing of a marriage of great love with Ephraim Levi, her dearly departed husband.
She is not only turning her life around. She is turning around the lives of others, Cornelius, Irene, Barnaby, and Minnie, and especially Horace. Up until his meeting of Dolly, he was a real curmudgeon. He had such an ugly personality. She is able to let EVERYBODY see the brighter side of life.
In bringing that thrill of adventure that is so much a part of her, that is what appeals to Frank. It is such an optimistic feel for someone who is directing Hello, Dolly! The same thing happens when someone is producing or watching a production of it.
Frank has always loved it. He has seen revivals of it. He saw Pearl Bailey in it. He saw Ethel Merman do it which was quite an accomplishment with the two extra Jerry Herman songs added just for her.
|Ethel Merman, So Long, Dearie|
Streisand gave her that Jewish connotation, but Dolly is not Jewish. She is Dolly Levi, born Gallagher. She is an Irish woman. Streisand did not embody that in any way, shape, or form. Such an indelible mark has been made by all the Broadway Dollys that it will be a tough role to cast. Perhaps the way to go is to build up from scratch. Abandon the original costume and set designs. Abandon the original choreography and direction. Frank doesn’t even know if that will work.
Frank started out as the production stage manager at The Walnut Street Theater. When he was offered the chance to direct, he was given free range to do as he desired. Since Hello, Dolly, the only stuff he has really done of any significance, according to him, is stuff that he has done at the University.
|Lisa Gunn as Irene Molloy|
Part Thornton Wilder, part Michael Stewart’s book adapted from that play, part of watching Carol Channing, part of reading the libretto, following the clues that are inherent in the script to bring the show to life…the cast, the company, the director, the creative team with such a zest for life, that is something that has always followed Frank.
Pearl Bailey was magnificent as Dolly; that all African-American Company was one of a kind. When it was first being talked about with the original choreography and costumes and sets and direction, everyone wondered how it would be done. They made those costumes work for Bailey.
Can one imagine that happening with Mame or La Cage Aux Folles?
Dolly is already exhilarating but to have someone like Pearl Bailey who was such a fun comedienne, who was such a brilliant actress was an added bonus.
Merman was magnificent. Lewis Funke of The New York Times wrote on March 30th, 1970 that “what Ethel Merman does with Hello, Dolly, the title tune, had to be seen as well as heard.”
In 2005 at Hofstra College in Hempstead, Long Island, Frank saw a marvelous Dolly, the legendary Lorraine Serabian. She was nominated for Broadway's 1969 Tony Award as Best Supporting or Featured Actress (Musical) for Zorba.
It is for a woman with a dynamite personality. It was popular in the heyday of summer stock companies throughout the Seventies.
Michele Lee did several productions regionally. Randy Graff has done Dolly since then. Tovah Feldshuh did a production at The Papermill Playhouse. It takes a bigger than life personality, an actress who has comic skills and a voice. That’s what you need to do the show. That’s what you need to create the ambiance, the mood, the theme, the color, the nature of the piece, the optimism that’s going to thrill an audience.
|Before the Parade Passes By — with Jenn Polish, Amy Halldin, Jeff Metzler and Julian Brightman.|
It publishes plays and represents authors. Frank knows all the musical Theater companies. Tams-Witmark has the rights to Hello, Dolly! Now, in the present, one can rent one or more different orchestrations. One can rent either the Carol Channing or Ethel Merman orchestrations.
Most women who do the show need to find the “in between.” Merman had the ability to belt a C sharp which happened during the Hello, Dolly number. A lot of women cannot hit that C Sharp. When Frank did the show with Deborah-Jean at The Walnut Street Theater, they combined both the Channing and Merman orchestrations to bring the show to life.
|Elegance: Lisa, Michael, Elise, Chris Sutton (Cornelius) — with Lisa Gunn and Elise Joan.|
The first time that Frank directed Hello, Dolly was 1972. The perspective that Frank has now as opposed to then has to do with the fact that he has seen it several times since then.
He has also read it a few times since then and has also done more research.
Frank was able to put together an amazing team at The Walnut.
With each production leading up to Walnut, he learned more and more how to stage it, what the sets should look like, where the doors needed to be in the hat shop, things that he did know know by doing it again and again. “Oh, this is how to make Motherhood work. The closet needs to be stage left. The drapery needs to be stage right. The table cloth needs to be floor length and dead center where Barnaby hides.”
Danny and Billie Jo Conway, another of Jean Lockin's dance instructors, had been invited to compete on the show. They did well-- Danny and Billie Jo tied for first place.
After the show, Danny told his mother to go on home without him- that he would catch a ride home with Billie Jo. On the way home, Danny and Billie Jo decided to stop at a Garden Grove bar for a drink to celebrate their victory. Danny was later seen leaving the bar with Charles Leslie Hopkins, 34, who was described as a slight, bearded, former medical clerk.
Police arrested Hopkins and charged him with Danny's murder. At the time of the arrest, police discovered a loose leaf notebook which had pictures of sexual tortures in it. (Source: http://www.dannylockin.com/death.htm)
Frank believes that Danny Lockin was the definitive Barnaby.
Tom Ligon was Horace at The Walnut. He is not necessarily a singer.
He was, however in the original production of Your Own Thing with Rusty Thacker. He was primarily a television actor. He had been on Young and The Restless, Loving, Oz. He became kind of a good luck charm for Frank. He also cast him as John Hancock in 1776 also at The Walnut. He returned to play Sir Evelyn in Anything Goes. After that, Frank asked him if he would like to play Vandergelder. He brought wonderful charm to the role of Vandergelder.
|It Takes a Woman: Tom Ligon leads the Men|
Carol Channing wrote in her memoirs, Just Lucky I Guess, that Patrick Quinn made her deaf in her left ear! At the time she wrote, “He stood right next to me, and he sang loud. He's now our president of Actors' Equity. I voted for him to get him off the stage."
Two original trademarks of an Anzalone production of HELLO DOLLY are:
|Sunday Clothes — with Julian Brightman, Nina Fluke Fluck, Jeff Metzler and Michael McGurk.|
two-dimensional caboose conjoined by an ensemble (including women with spinning parasols representing the wheels) -- traversing the passerelle surrounding the orchestra pit at the climax of the number.
Returning to the Harmonia Gardens staircase for Dolly's entrance in her white wedding dress in the Curtain Call.
Dan played Rudolph at the Walnut in 2004. Dan played Beau opposite Christine Ebersole in MAME at Papermill and Nick Arnstein opposite Laurie Beechman in FUNNY GIRL in Sacramento. Mame was 1999; Funny Girl was 1992. Also Georges in LaCage with Jamie Torcellini at Walnut in 2000.
To sum up, every production of Hello, Dolly that Frank has been involved in have all been joyous experiences. It is an extremely happy show. Frank is very fond of Thornton Wilder’s The Matchmaker which is so “up tempo.” Many years ago, Frank directed a production of Matchmaker in a high school in Maryland. He just loves the piece. In The Matchmaker, the final speech is given by Barnaby Tucker. It is a short monologue about adventure. “I hope you all have great adventures in your life. It is so upbeat. It talks about enjoying life every day which is inherent in Cornelius’ monologue in the courtroom. The monologue written by Wilder for the final moments of The Matchmaker is, unfortunately, excluded in Hello, Dolly!
Frank at final dress reading Barnaby's closing monologue from Wilder's The Matchmaker
Thank you Frank Anzelone for the gifts you have given to the world and continue to give!
Check out my site celebrating my forthcoming book on Hello, Dolly!
This book will be a celebration of this great American classic.
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 to share?
If you have anything to add or share, please contact me at Richard@RichardSkipper.com.
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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 interview with Wayne Cilento: Molly Picon's Hello, Dolly!
Thank you, to all the mentioned in this blog!
Thank you, to all the mentioned in this blog!
Here's to an INCREDIBLE tomorrow for ALL...with NO challenges!
TILL TOMORROW...HERE'S TO AN ARTS FILLED DAY
This Blog is dedicated to ALL THE DOLLYS and ANYONE who has EVER had a connection with ANY of them on ANY Level!