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‘Hello, Dolly!’ at Charlotte Latin School

blumey student critics
T. Ortega Gaines - ogaines@charlotteobserver.com
Gray Heath

“It only takes a moment” to fall in love with Charlotte Latin’s production of “Hello, Dolly!” As the conductor threw his arms into the air, the orchestra captivated my attention, transporting me to early 20th century New York City.

From the magnificent overture, I pondered how the cast could continue to enthrall me with their performance of such a well-known, feel-good show. Yet with the dimming of each light, the sound of each song and the pull of each curtain, I never experienced a dull moment.

The costumes were creations at which to marvel; the hats seemed to get bigger and brighter in every scene, while each dress outdid the next. The lighting and sound had few technical difficulties. Moreover, all the creative aspects were wonderfully tied together with outstanding sets.

Enormous set pieces ranged from a grand staircase in the Harmonia Gardens Restaurant to a seemingly real train that actually blew steam. They and the intricate props were sure to mesmerize any theatergoer.

The creative team cleverly crafted a grand set without cluttering the stage. In “Before the Parade Passes By,” many separate groups marched around the smallish stage, yet I was never visually overwhelmed; the costumes and color schemes allowed for easy separation and a constant focal point on Dolly Levi (senior Lea Kokenes).

The entire cast continued to impress me through song and dance. From feeling as if I were viewing a ballet in the superb dancing of “Put On Your Sunday Clothes” to getting goose bumps from the sweet sound of Dolly’s voice, the artistic talent never ceased to amaze me.

Not once did I cringe at a voice or feel sorry for a singer. As a triple threat, junior Michael Julliard played Cornelius Hackl with exuberance, a smooth voice and effortless dancing.

From one-handed cartwheels to well-executed dance moves, the actors accurately depicted the hectic scene at Harmonia Gardens. (Think “Be Our Guest” extravagance.) In “So Long, Dearie,” her number ridiculing Horace Vandergelder (senior Griffin Smith), Dolly enraptured the audience with her spiteful sass; the song epitomized their relationship, capturing the dry humor and stubbornness both actors succeeded in portraying.

The cast operated as a single unit. Never did an ensemble piece appear sloppy or chaotic; every group number revealed the talent of every cast member. In fact, although solos were incredible, I found myself loving big song-and-dance numbers, not rolling my eyes at what could easily have been a tackily mammoth production.

Each character grew as a performer throughout the production. As the curtains threatened to close while the ensemble sang the musical finale, the cast maintained its enchanting power and energy.

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The Charlotte Observer welcomes your comments on news of the day. The more voices engaged in conversation, the better for us all, but do keep it civil. Please refrain from profanity, obscenity, spam, name-calling or attacking others for their views.

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