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It’s so nice to have you back where you belong.
That’s what the Harmonia Gardens waiters famously sing to matchmaking widow Dolly Levi and that’s what I’m saying to the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra and its musicals in concert.
A few seasons back, the ISO combined its talents with top Broadway pros and crafted a magical “Guys and Dolls.” Sans sets but with music on a scale unheard of on Broadway, it delivered a show that made even my New York theater geek friends jealous. The ISO is now taking a similar run at “Hello, Dolly!” and, while the result isn’t as transcendent as “Guys and Dolls,” it’s still a delight.
Selfish note to the ISO: I don’t usually make programming requests, but please do one of these every year. Please. Like Dolly at her favorite eatery, these productions belong on the Hilbert Circle Theatre stage. (Or the Palladium, where pops shows are featured on select Sunday evenings).
If such concerts only offered an opportunity to hear a warhorse Broadway score with full orchestra, that would be enough. But maestro Jack Everly and executive producer Ty A. Johnson don’t settle for shortcuts.
First, they’ve lured a musical star into the lead. Okay, so Sandi Patty may not yet have the acting chops–at least, not yet–to head a full production of “Dolly,” but for a concert production, she delivers as promised. Carol Channing isn't missed.
It helps that the show has been tinkered with a bit to take some of the early weight off of her shoulders. Specifically, the cut-before-Broadway song “Penny in My Pocket,” offered early in the show by Horace Vandergelder, the man Dolly’s targeted for marriage, helps strengthen that character. It also served to give more stage time to the wonderful Gary Beach (a Tony-winner for Broadway’s “The Producers” and a vet of the ISO “Guys and Dolls”).
When you’ve got two high-profile leads, it may be forgiven if the supporting cast was second tier. But Everly and company go the extra casting mile with the enigmatic James T. Lane (from Broadway’s “The Scottsboro Boys”) and NY theater vet Laura Shoop (offering a beautifully sung “Ribbons Down My Back”) standing out in a consistently strong company.
What is lost? Well, some of the dialogue is trimmed, the farcical elements in Act II don't quite play. And iif you really were hoping to see the big polka competition, sorry. But those are small, small sacrifices for musical theater bliss.
Go–before this particularly pleasurable parade passes by.