Norfolk & Norwich Operatic Society’s amateur production of Hello, Dolly! was decidedly tailored to an older generation, although this is probably to be expected from a 1960s musical, the story of which can be traced back as far as 1835. The content was incredibly tame (even more so than Gene Kelly’s famous money-losing filmic interpretation) and the production focused largely on outdated humour. However, the show was still entertaining and did have a certain old world charm, giving an exciting glimpse into the glamorous turn of the 20th century.
The story centred around Dolly Levi (Gloria Dashwood), the vivacious widow and well-known meddler intent on bagging the rich Horace Vandergelder (Peter Howell) as husband number two. Whilst posing as his match-maker, Dolly manipulates her own way to the altar, and after introducing Horace to a string of unsuitable women he cannot but be convinced Dolly is the only one for him. Although her interpretation was never going to live up to Barbara Streisand’s on-screen performance, Dashwood made a bold and brassy Dolly. Through moments of lingering loyalty to her long dead husband, Dashwood also managed to expose a touching vulnerability beneath Dolly’s front. The subplot concentrated on Horace’s employees Cornelius Hackl (Joe Phelps) and Barnaby Tucker (Gary Higgs), who made a hilarious, hapless duo with the united sole aim of “kissing a girl”. The pair secretly venture to New York despite being forbidden by their boss, only to find themselves constantly crossing his path.
The set was questionable at times, with cast members entering “iron gates” by slipping through a pair of curtains. Howell seemed plagued with practical misfortunes, from his chair breaking beneath him to almost falling down the set of wobbly stairs. The dancing was not always completely polished and a few actors put an arm out of place here and there. These instances served as reminders of the play’s amateur status. However, there were also some very commendable moments, for instance a highly impressive acrobatic display in the form of a parade, complete with a marching band, jugglers, stilts, clowns and even a Statue of Liberty.
Despite a few mistakes, the audience gave a highly enthusiastic reception. The theatre rang with rapturous applause after every joke, song and dance, and the overall performance was bright and enjoyable, with colourful costumes and catchy songs.