Hello, Dolly by Toni Tennille: Live at the Yavapai Performing Arts Center

Hello, Dolly, presented this weekend in all its glory at the Yavapai College Center for the Performing Arts, stages a great piece of musical history. Since the original opening in 1964 at the St. James Theater on Broadway, “Dolly” has become one of America’s most beloved musicals. The original production which ran for six years and 2,800 performances set records with ten Tony Awards and a New York Drama Critics Circle Award for Best Musical. ‘Dolly’ captured the public’s imagination and became a musical icon.

Louis Armstrong’s recording of the title track, “Hello, Dolly”, replaced the Beatles’ “Can’t Buy Me Love” as Billboard’s number one hit in the summer of 1964. After Carol Channing left the series, Hello, Dolly has become a showcase for stars such as Ginger Rogers, Martha Raye, Pearl Bailey and Ethel Merman. The 1967 film starring Barbara Streisand won four Oscars and was nominated for Best Picture.

Almost six decades later, “Dolly” continues to delight audiences. Our local revival continues until Sunday, November 20e.

Hello, Dolly holds a special place in this reviewer’s personal story. When I first visited New York in 1964, “Dolly” was the first live Broadway musical I attended. Carol Channing still wowed audiences in the cast’s original production. I still remember feeling mesmerized by the big theater orchestra singing the song “Hello, Dolly” as radiant blonde Carol Channing in her red satin dress descended the magic staircase in her famous role as the first Dolly Levi, Yonkers matchmaker. Exhilarating stuff for a sixteen-year-old recently transplanted from Anchorage, Alaska. By the way, Channing’s sequin dress is on permanent display at the Smithsonian.

The local revival opened on November 2n/a. Heard great things about the Craig John Ralston production with Toni Tennille in the title role and was looking forward to seeing the show. The performance I saw on Thursday night exceeded expectations in every way. The quality of the production – set design, costumes, live orchestra and local talent on display were all remarkably good. The dance numbers, in particular, were exceptionally well done. It was obvious that a lot of rehearsal time and attention to detail went into the production. The actors were confident and comfortable with their lines. Their sense of timing was smooth and polished and gave the show a strong sense of cohesion.

Prescott’s resident musical celebrity, Grammy Award-winning Toni Tennille as Dolly Levi, remains a charismatic performer. The role of Dolly calls for a big personality with star power. Ms. Tennille brought charm, humor, a wonderful sense of stage presence and an ever-so-beautiful voice to the role. Ms. Tennille, of Captain & Tennille fame, came out of retirement to help with production.

The program notes inform us that this weekend’s performances are Toni Tennille’s “last onstage starring role.” She gave us a memorable “Dolly”, a class act in every sense of the word.

Other standout performances include multi-talented YCPAC director and performer John Craig Ralston, who was beautifully voiced and dramatically compelling as miserly Horace Vandergelder. Wesley Traver sang and danced with elan as Cornelius Hackl, and James Howell brought good humor, humor and elegant footwork to his dance numbers as Barnaby Tucker. Stéphanie Zeh, the 2021 winner of Prescott singsappearing as the widow, Irene Molloy, has a driven voice of exceptional clarity and delivered a wonderful rendition of “Ribbons Down My Back”.

There are two more performances of Hello, Dolly left. Tonight, Saturday 19e, at 19 ‘o clock. And a last morning on Sunday November 20e, 15 hours. Tickets can be purchased HERE.