Review: Paragon’s Hello, Dolly!

Horace Vandergelder (Greg Wilson, center in yellow shirt) and the men at his Hay and Feed store sing It Takes A Woman. Photos by Rich Copley | LexGo.com.

Horace Vandergelder (Greg Wilson, center in yellow shirt) and the men at his Hay and Feed store sing "It Takes A Woman." Photos by Rich Copley | LexGo.com.

If you can walk out of Hello, Dolly! saying, “That was fun,” then mission accomplished.

This is not one of those musicals that are supposed to help you realize deeper truths about life and the human condition or to leave you enraptured by compelling drama. Dolly is a little confection that says we take life a bit too seriously.

And Paragon Music Theatre has accomplished the mission of offering a fun evening with its production of the Jerry Herman-Michael Stewart musical, which opened Thursday and runs through Sunday at the Lexington Opera House.

Director Robyn Peterman-Zahn has created a traditional rendition of the show with some impressive set pieces designed by Josh Hurley and backdrops designed by Liz Weyer.

Much of the fun of this evening can be attributed to the leading actors and the men of the ensemble.

Alicia Helm McCorvey as Dolly makes the part her own.

Alicia Helm McCorvey as Dolly makes the part her own.

Alicia Helm McCorvey is not your Dolly Levi from Central Casting. If your deep desire is an idiosyncratic performance along the lines of Carol Channing or Barbra Streisand, this is not that. Then again, I don’t know who would be the Dolly from Central Casting in Lexington.

When you don’t have that obvious option, the thing to do is give the role to a terrific performer and let her make it her own, which is what McCorvey does.

Her Dolly is wistful, fanciful and maternal. McCorvey’s operatic voice also soars higher than traditional Dollys, presumably with some custom orchestration by music director Ryan Shirar. McCorvey has an instrument that’s different from that of anyone else on stage, but that’s fine, because Dolly is set apart from the rest of the characters.

McCorvey’s voice seemed to provide a particular challenge in the sound department: She frequently overpowered the microphone. If she is going to be miked, she needs to be more smoothly mixed with the other voices.

And there are other great voices on stage. With Dolly, Paragon continues a trend of making discoveries, principally Greg Wilson as Horace Vandergelder, Rebecca Rudd as Irene Molloy and Evan Pulliam as Barnaby Tucker.

Wilson sparks the show to life when leading the men in the ensemble in It Takes a Woman. He naturally steps to the front of the stage and engages the audience, and that is essential to soften Horace’s rough exterior.

Rudd was luminous in her rendition of Ribbons Down My Back. And Pulliam was a bolt of energy, elevating Barnaby above the role of simple sidekick.

This brings up one frustration: the lack of cast biographies in the program. I really wanted to know more about each of these new faces.

The familiar names of Jan Hooker and Adam Richard Fister rounded out the lead ensemble, and whenever any combination of that group was on stage, the show was fine.

It also was in great shape with the men, in Horace’s shop in Act I and as the staff of the Harmonia Gardens Restaurant in Act II. They had loads of personality and were a collective triple threat. It was in the large ensemble scenes that some of the air came out of the show. The movement felt confused, but the real letdown was a lack of vocal power, particularly in the opening number, Call on Dolly. The Act I closer defied that problem, again with a lot of help from the principals.

And again, the overall sensation was fun, which is exactly what a production of Hello, Dolly! should be.

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