Dolly Levi, matchmaker and self-proclaimed circumventer of any obstacle in the way of a potential love match, is a BIG personality. So big that none of the “matchees” in her sphere of influence is even remotely as interesting. When Dolly's not on stage, the void is a Broadway-sized one. Her name's in the title of the show, for crying out loud.
But you knew all that. Hello, Dolly! has been entertaining theater audiences since 1964, and if the current production at Welk Resort Theatre directed by Ray Limon is any indication, Dolly shows no signs of slowing down. Hell, the famous title song, which goes “Dolly'll never go away again,” seems misguided. She's never been away.
The Welk's Dolly, bursting with life thanks to Cynthia Ferrer, reigns over this production, bestowing all the requisite heart and laughter in Michael Stewart's book (based on Thornton Wilder's The Matchmaker) and Jerry Herman's songs. She and the rest of the sizable cast also radiate from the stage in gaily colored period costumes designed by Janet Pitcher.
While the Welk stage is small for a show of this scale and its Hello, Dolly! sets are just adequate, the actors—from Dolly on down to the high-stepping waiters at the Harmonia Gardens, look simply mahvelous.
Even if you've never seen Hello, Dolly! you won't be in great suspense about what will happen in the story, in particular whether Dolly will end up with the “halfmillionaire” Horace Vandergelder (Randy Doney) she aims to match herself with. Even less in doubt is what fate awaits the other sets of sweethearts, which include the fabulous Charlene Koepf in the role of hat shop owner Irene Molloy. But the spirit of this unfailingly agreeable show, inherent in not only those 1890s threads but in the oft-eye-popping choreography, prevails. “Quaint” only begins to describe the feeling of this grand dame musical, which by the standards of 2015 theater could be regarded as a relic. But that would be doing a disservice to the classic character of Dolly herself, who'll probably be around if there's theater to go to in 3015.
So, returning to that line from the signature title tune, subtract the “again” and what you're left with is “Dolly'll never go away.”
Hello, Dolly! runs through Nov. 15 at the Welk Resort Theatre in Escondido. $48 and up. welkresorts.com
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Thoroughly Modern Millie: A young girl fresh off a Kansas farm taps and flaps her way through '20s New York City in this highly popular Broadway musical. It opens Sept. 11 at the Coronado Playhouse. coronadoplayhouse.com
Race: Two lawyers have to defend a wealthy white executive accused of sexually assaulting a black woman in David Mamet's biting drama. Presented by Different Stages, it opens Sept. 13 at Swedenborg Hall in Hillcrest. differentstages.biz
In Your Arms: A world premiere “dance-theatre musical” created by a who's who of Tony and Pulitzer-winning Broadway vets. Directed by Christopher Gattelli, it opens Sept. 16 at the Old Globe Theatre in Balboa Park. theoldglobe.org
Unnecessary Farce: Paul Slade Smith's whimsical comedy about a police sting that goes hilariously wrong. It runs through Sept. 12 at the OnStage Playhouse in Chula Vista. onstageplayhouse.info
The Supporting Cast: George Furth's lighthearted comedy about an author who invites her friends to her beach house to reveal to them that they're characters in her new novel. It runs through Sept. 13 at Lamplighters Community Theatre in La Mesa. lamplighterslamesa.com
Violet: Jeanine Tesori's acclaimed musical about a disfigured young woman making a cross-country trip in hopes that a televangelist can heal her. Presented by San Diego Repertory Theatre, it runs through Sept. 13 at the Lyceum Theatre in the Gaslamp. sdrep.org
The Diary of Anne Frank: The stage adaptation of the inspirational true story of a young girl hiding from Nazis in WWII Amsterdam. It runs through Sept. 27 at Vista's Broadway Theater. broadwayvista.com
The Comedy of Errors: Shakespeare's mischievous comedy about mistaken identity and long-lost twins. It runs through Sep. 20 at the Old Globe's Lowell Davies Festival Theatre in Balboa Park. theoldglobe.org
Moon Over Buffalo: Ken Ludwig's comedy about two aging theater actors who may get one more chance to perform on Broadway. Directed by Margo Essman, it runs through Sept. 20 at the Patio Playhouse in Escondido. patioplayhouse.com
Big Fish: A musical about a southern salesman who spins tall tales to his son throughout his life. Based on the novel by Daniel Wallace and the motion picture by Tim Burton, it runs through Sept. 26 at the Moonlight Amphitheatre in Vista. moonlightstage.com
Mixtape: The Greatest Hits of the ‘80s: The homegrown musical about the ‘80s features songs from some of the biggest pop stars of that time including Duran Duran, The Cure, Madonna, Michael Jackson, and more. Presented by Lamb's Players Theatre, it runs through Sept. 27 at the Horton Grand Theatre in the Gaslamp.
Amazons and Their Men: The West Coast premiere of Jordan Harrison's comically subversive play about German film auteur Leni Riefenstahl. Directed by Matt M. Morrow, it runs through Oct. 4 at the Diversionary Theatre in Hillcrest. diversionary.org
Blueprints to Freedom: An Ode to Bayard Rustin: This world premiere drama set in 1963 centers on the redemptive story of Civil Rights hero Bayard Rustin. Written by Michael Benjamin Washington, it runs through Oct. 4 at the La Jolla Playhouse's Potiker Theatre. lajollaplayhouse.org
The Fox on the Fairway: A country-club president bets on a golf tournament but loses his ringer to the other side in this Caddyshack-esque comedy. It runs through Oct. 11 at the North Coast Repertory Theatre in Solana Beach. northcoastrep.org