Curtain Call: A Perfect Match

Sally Struthers stars in Hello Dolly running Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 2 and 8 p.m., and Sunday at 1 and 6 p.m. at the Scranton Cultural Center. Tickets range from $46.50 to $67.50. Call 342-7784 or (800) 745-3000.

A Perfect Match

Classic musical Hello Dolly opens Broadway Theater season

Like most of the great strong roles for women in American musical theater, Dolly Gallagher Levi was written for Ethel Merman. It would be Carol Channing who built a career on the role after originating it in David Merrick’s 1964 production, however, and the list of women who have played Dolly since reads like a roll call of actress heavyweights: Pearl Bailey, Mary Martin, Eve Arden, Dorothy Lamour, Ann Sothern, Yvonne De Carlo, Lanie Kazan, Ginger Rogers, Martha Raye, Betty Grable, Phyllis Diller, Barbra Streisand, and even, eventually, Ethel Merman.
Sally Struthers joined the list on Oct. 5 when Big League Theatricals’ 50th anniversary tour of Hello Dolly opened in Somerville, N.J. Expected to play more than 70 cities in North America and Canada before its done, the show will be staged at the Scranton Cultural Center this weekend via The Broadway Theatre of Northeastern Pennsylvania.
Struthers is most famous for playing Archie and Edith’s daughter Gloria on All in the Family but if you’ve seen her more recently as the feisty Babette on the Gilmore Girls, you’ll know why the meddling Dolly Levi is a good fit. The actress brings considerable stage experience to the table, too, having previously appeared in Broadway productions of Annie, Grease and The Odd Couple and regionally in The Full Monty, Mame, Legally Blonde, and Chicago.
Based on Thornton Wilder’s play The Matchmaker and its 1958 movie adaptation (starring the underappreciated Shirley Booth in one of her few film roles), Hello Dolly was originally titled Dolly, A Damned Exasperating Woman. The title was changed after Merrick heard Louis Armstrong perform his trademark version of Hello Dolly.
Our title character is a widow who scrapes together a living meddling, i.e. matchmaking, teaching dance and mandolin, etc. I’ve always been a woman who arranges things, Dolly Levi sings in early in the first act. The story follows her as she seeks a wife for the grumpy rich Horace Vangergelder, whom she secretly plans to keep for herself. Meanwhile Ambrose Kemper, an artist, wants to marry Horaces niece Ermengardge. It is a match Horace opposes for the artists financial insecurity. In a side plot, Horace’s clerks Cornelius and Barnaby adventure off in search of love.
“It’s set in that era when people dressed for dinner and for girls and boys, just to get a handshake was (wonderful). These boys go to New York to meet the girls and they want to do is kiss a girl and go home and they’ll be happy for the rest of their life. Life was so innocent,” Broadway Theatre’s executive director Tony Nicosia gushed.
“They’ve got the bustles and the big hats. The guys thought nothing of wearing pastel jackets and little top hats. It all seems so different, but when you really come down to it all we really want to do (then and now) is live and be happy and share a little tenderness and kindness the simple things in life that’s what we need to remember. And so when a show like this comes to town, it gives you two and a half hours of just going back in time and remembering life so simple and happy.”
In addition to Struthers, the tour features John O’Creagh as Horace Vandergelder, Matt Wolfe (who recently made his Broadway debut in Scandalous) as Cornelius, Garett Hawe (Newsies) as Barnaby, Lauren Blackman as Irene, Halle Morse (Mamma Mia) as Minnie Fay, and Hilary Fingerman and Brad Frenette as Ermengarde and Ambrose respectively. Visit for more information or for ticket information.