Tarzan Sings, Swings At The Barn

A century ago, English novelist Edgar Rice Burroughs created a character who wore very few clothes and spoke even fewer words. “Tarzan of The Apes” swung into print in 1912, has appeared in every entertainment format since then and shows no signs of coming out of the jungle any time soon.

One of his most recent incarnations was on Broadway where “Tarzan, The Stage Musical” opened in 2006. Based on the 1999 Disney movie, the tale of the orphaned English lord raised by “giant apes” began a two-week run Tuesday evening at The Barn Theatre in Augusta, Mich.

Since 1912, here have been many, many, many variations on the Tarzan story, this one was set to music by Phil Collins and, for the most part, reportedly follows Burroughs’ original plotline. Possibly the reason it is not billed as “Disney’s Tarzan, The Stage Musical” is that it falls into Disney’s “Aida” and “The Little Mermaid” category, i.e. not very theatrically successful.

The Barn production does not attempt to salvage the extremely familiar material with a lot of pyrotechnics or aerial gymnastics. It just delivers it as it is and, for the most part, that works as well as anything.

Tarzan The Stage Musical  The Barn Theatre  Augusta MIDirector Eric Parker gets his actors on, lets them do their thing, and gets them off, resulting in a two-hour (including intermission) production that is more entertaining because it is not dragged out.

The unit set serves as the jungle, with side camps for the ill-fated Greystokes and the more fortunate Porters. Knotted ropes at each side of the proscenium are ready for energetic swinging, and a multi-level green “mountain” is the central location around and up-and-down which Tarzan and his fellow apes fight and play.

Barn choreographer Jamey Grisham sheds his dancing shoes — in fact any shoes and most of his clothing — to play the title character. Barn veteran Penelope Alex turns in another very sympathetic portrayal as Kala, Tarzan’s adopted apemom. Patrick Hunter is Kerchak, leader of the apes who is definitely against keeping the “evil” baby; Hannah Eakin is Jane Porter, British horticulturist who loses her heart (and her clothes) to the jungle; and Josh Meredith is Terk, Tarzan’s best buddy and the designated comedian of the piece.

Grisham’s Tarzan mixes muscles with dreds and a disarming grin to present a nature boy who maintains his sense of humor throughout. It is a charming characterization although his “yell” needs some work. His “discovery” of Jane is definitely “scratch and sniff” but in a gently humorous way. Eakin has a warm soprano which, even so, can’t do much to save Collins’ tepid ballads.

Tarzan The Stage Musical  The Barn Theatre Augusta MIHunter is properly intimidating as the ferocious leader whose roar hides a rather soft heart. Alex echoes every mother who chooses her child over the strictures of her tribe and makes the gorilla universally maternal. Meredith’s Terk (and that rhymes with …) is indeed the class clown whose bravado hides a quaking backbone. He makes the most of his brash exterior and his asides (“Lose the yell, kid”) are welcome.

Ricky Phillips is Clayton, part of the Porter safari and the resident bad guy, a role he dispatches with hand-wringing glee. Also evil is the murderous, red-eyed leopard (Jordan Moody, who never gets upright) who is a key killer in the plot. High on his dinner menu is Tarzan, who chased him off as a child. As Young Tarzan, Floridian Donny Graves jumps, swings and flips with the enthusiasm of an athletic pre-teen and never looses his cool.

The remaining ensemble members are gorillas, huffing and grunting in knuckle-dragging representations of great apes. Costume designer Michael Wilson Morgan has opted to ignore hairy outfits and go instead with black tops and legging covered with what appear to be dozens and dozens of string mops (minus the handles) dyed black, red and blue (except for Kerchak who is black and white). The mops bobble and flow in a perpetual salute to Tarzan and The Great Apes.

“TARZAN The Stage Musical” plays through Aug. 4 in the theater on M-96 between Galesburg and Augusta, MI. For performance times and reservations, call (269) 731-4121 or visit www.barnthatre.com.

WW Magic Big Plus For 'Wedding Singer'

In recent years, the trend on Broadway has been to abandon originality for reworking existing stories, most often those of hit movies, especially hit movies to which a musical score can be added.

There have been many of these, popularly referred to as “Jukebox Musicals.” They vary in theatrical strength, most often relying on LOUD as their key ingredient. They also vary in longevity, depending on their level of production.

Director/choreographer Scott Michaels has worked his magic on the current Wagon Wheel Theatre production of the Broadway version of the 1998 Adam Sandler/Drew Barrymore comedy “The Wedding Singer.”

The core of this transformation relies on several ingredients: A talented cast, thoroughly engaging leads, amazing choreography and killer vocals which leave your eardrums (almost) in tact. Well, it is set in the ‘80s which I recall was a very loud decade.

The score, well-played as always by conductor/keyboardist Thomas N. Stirling and the eight talented musicians who make up his “pit band” (literally), is definitely not memorable. But, as they say, sometimes the strength is in the doing and Wagon Wheel does it right.

“The Wedding Singer” is the 400th production of Warsaw’s theater-in-the-round which began as a gravel-floored tent and is now one of the most highly respected summer theaters in the country.

On opening night Wednesday, about 900 “guests” came to the wedding and, obviously friends of the bride AND groom, stayed through the quite ridiculous finale, loving every minute of it.

Matt Hill is Robbie Hart, guitarist and lead singer of the band Simply Wed. He is in love with love and with fiancé Linda (Alexandra Howley) who, unfortunately turns out to fit the very unflattering description delivered by his feisty grandmother Rosie (Jennifer Dow at her geriatric best!).

The Wedding Singer Wagon Wheel Theatre Warsaw INHe is rescued from the dumpster of depression by Julia Sullivan (Stephanie Cowan), a waitress at the wedding facility where his band plays. Together, Hill and Cowan make a really adorable and completely sympathetic couple. She has a naturally warm and clear soprano which makes her solos thoroughly enjoyable. His baritone fits beautifully in their several duets and, like Cowan, he can belt or sustain a solo note without rupturing your eardums. His comic timing is excellent and he never overdoes.

As the duo’s definitely-not-the-right-mate-material, Rob Montgomery and Howley are the fiancés you love to hate. He is Glen Guglia, a Wall Street sleaze whose priorities are “All About the Green.” She dumps Robbie when he fails to become a rock star. Both meet their musical just rewards and if Linda’s “Let Me Come Home” sounds like a ballad title, you couldn’t be more wrong!

Robbie’s band mates are his best friend Sammy (Matthew Janisse), who is holding on to the single life in spite of an increasing reconnection to Julia’s best friend Holly (Leigh Ellen Jones), and George (Dereck Seay), a soulful portable keyboard player whose resemblance — vocal and coiffure-wise — to Boy George is unmistakable. His rap with Rosie is a highlight of the second act and, even though fairly unintelligible, is a well-deserved show-stopper.

It’s the ‘80s, so of course the girls are on the hunt for a man to “Pop” (the question), while the boys’ interest is in having their cake and —well, you know. It’s the age-old battle of the sexes and there’s no mistaking the results.

The multi-level set designed by Michael Higgins and Terry Julien and lit above and below by Patrick Chan, allows the action to move to many locations (and gives the WW stage crew a real workout!). Stephen R. Hollenbeck’s return-to-the-‘80s costumes are spot-on and whether at a wedding or a disco, add much to the ambiance of the wild-and-wooly decade.

If the final confrontations are most recognizable to TV fans of that period, they certainly are good for leaving the whole audience laughing. And retrospectively, wasn’t that what it was all about?

”THE WEDDING SINGER” plays through July 27 in the theater at 2517 E. Center Street in Warsaw. For performance times and reservations, call 267-8041 or (800) 823-2618 or visit www.wagonwheeltheatre.com

Shaking Up Elvis And The Bard of Avon

Take a rollicking farce that is more than 500 years old and inject it with a large amount of music from the late 20th century and what do you have?

In the case of the current Elkhart Civic Theatre production of “All Shook Up,” the answer is a highly entertaining evening of familiar melodies and a plot that becomes so hilariously twisted it takes about 2 ½ hours (including intermission) to get everyone straightened out and properly paired up.

What makes this seemingly unlikely combination of Elvis Presley’s best-known songs and the reimagining by playwright Joe DiPietro of one of Shakespeare’s most-produced farces so totally enjoyable is the unbridled enthusiasm of the cast, most of whom are still in their ‘teens.

The opening line of “Twelfth Night” (the work by The Bard of Avon on which the circuitous plot is based) is “If music be the food of love, play on.” In the rousing ECT production it plays on…and on…and on.

If some of the individual voices are a bit less than solo quality, each one makes up for being “pitchy” with frequently endearing energy and enthusiasm. The sharp staging by John J. Shoup, assisted by Leann Reas-Sullan, underscores every comic incidence and makes the most of all the fast-paced happenings.

All Shook Up Elkhart Civic Theatre Bristol INThere is no way to unravel the plot. It is no easier set in “A small you-never-heard-of-it-town somewhere in the Midwest” during the summer of 1955 than it was, set in Illyria on the east coast of the Adriatic Sea in about 1601.

Against Jeffrey Barrack’s stylized drops, the story of “Roustabout” Chad (Tell Williams IV), who literally roars into town on his motorcycle and more than disrupts the status quo, is nothing but fun from beginning to end. As each principle player “falls in love(?)” “One Night With You” is the romantic anthem of choice.

The town is under the thumb of Mayor Matilda (Joy Freude), who has enacted “The Mamie Eisenhower Decency Act” which prohibits “loud music, public necking and tight pants.” In no time, Chad is rousing the residents to rebellion.

In the tradition of true farce, everyone is falling in love but no one is falling for the right person. Among the mis-matched inhabitants are Sylvia, owner of the local café (Wanzetta Arnett); her daughter Lorraine (Dayna Arnette); Jim, a widower and owner/operator of the local garage (Rick All Shook Up  Elkhart Civic Theatre  Bristol INNymeyer); his daughter Natalie, who also serves as chief mechanic (Carly Swendsen); Dennis, town nerd and bad boy wannabee (Matthew Manley); Dean, the mayor’s son avoiding a return to the Stonewall Jackson Military Academy (Andy Braden); Miss Sandra, the town’s new librarian (Ashlea Romano); and Sheriff Earl, silent head of law enforcement (Tony Venable).

These, plus two trios (Brittny Goon, Kristen Abbey and Julie Kavalenko and Jared Yoder, Jacob DeLong and Joshua Garcia) who supply some excellent backup work, do well presenting numbers from The King’s repertoire. An ensemble of 13 and Kids’ Chorus of four deliver a really solid sound thanks to vocal director Sandy Hill.

Suspension of disbelief allows cute and perky Carly to pass as sidekick Ed, even without a dirty face. Watching the repressed inhabitants throw off the inhibiting yoke of Mayor Matilda and learn to “Follow That Dream” results in one laugh after another.

I also guarantee that, whether or not you were ever an Elvis fan, watching the ‘50s-style choreography by Dawn Manger (with John Shoup) set to the excellent eight-piece orchestra directed by percussionist Mark Swendsen will get your toes tapping. It’s definitely unavoidable considering the extensive range of the 24-song score.

It’s a look back and way, way back to a time when “A Little Less Conversation” resulted in steady fires of “Burning Love.”

“ALL SHOOK UP” plays at 8 p.m. today and Saturday and 3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday in the Bristol Opera House on SR 120 in downtown Bristol. For reservations, call 848-4116 between 1 and 5:30 p.m. weekdays or visit www.elkhartcivictheatre.org.

Storming The Barricades Yet Again

There is no doubt that wherever it plays, whether the production is amateur or professional, audiences love “Les Miserables.”

The almost-opera, called a “sing-through” musical, is a close second to “The Phantom of the Opera” in Broadway longevity. It has been performed all over the world. The London production has been running continuously since 1985, there have been two anniversary concerts (10th and 25th) and, after an initial Broadway run of 16 years (1987 to 2003), with one revival from 2006 to ’08 and another planned for the spring of 2014, it would seem that there is no generation gap in fans of “Les Miz”, who just keep coming and coming back.

One of the first non-professional regional productions opened Friday evening in South Bend Civic Theatre’s Wilson Mainstage Auditorium. The initial run of 13 scheduled performances has been increased to 15 with several already sold out.

Obviously, sight unseen (and sound unheard), everybody wants to see the massive musical created from Victor Hugo’s equally massive novel(s) by composer Claude-Michel Schonberg, lyricist Herbert Kretzmer and authors Schonberg and Alain Boublil.

[caption id="attachment_494" align="alignleft" width=""]Les Miserables South Bend (IN) Civic TheatreThenardier (Will Heckaman) and his wife (Dawn Marie Hagerty) feign innocence when the silverware they are stealing clatters to the floor in this scene from the South Bend Civic Theatre production of LES MISERABLES.[/caption]

There is no doubt that wherever it plays, whether the production is amateur or professional, audiences love “Les Miserables.”

The almost-opera, called a “sing-through” musical, is a close second to “The Phantom of the Opera” in Broadway longevity. It has been performed all over the world. The London production has been running continuously since 1985, there have been two anniversary concerts (10th and 25th) and, after an initial Broadway run of 16 years (1987 to 2003), with one revival from 2006 to ’08 and another planned for the spring of 2014, it would seem that there is no generation gap in fans of “Les Miz”, who just keep coming and coming back.

One of the first non-professional regional productions opened Friday evening in South Bend Civic Theatre’s Wilson Mainstage Auditorium. The initial run of 13 scheduled performances has been increased to 15 with several already sold out.

Obviously, sight unseen (and sound unheard), everybody wants to see the massive musical created from Victor Hugo’s equally massive novel(s) by composer Claude-Michel Schonberg, lyricist Herbert Kretzmer and authors Schonberg and Alain Boublil.

Les Miserables South Bend (IN) Civic Theatre

Director David Case assembled a cast of 39, based understandably on vocal ability and, for the most part, all 13 leading players are equal to that task. As an ensemble, the aggregation of students, prisoners, villagers, police, factory workers, prostitutes and general rabble combined to deliver a powerful sound, especially on the Prologue and Finale and the always-stirring “One Day More.”

The incredibly daunting role of Jean Valjean, an ex-convict who seizes the opportunity to change his life even when it means becoming a fugitive, is played by Stephen M. Salisbury. The talented singer, who fits Hugo’s description of the “burly French peasant,” is definitely up to the challenge. He displays a strong high baritone that colors the melodies clearly as his motives change from revenge to compassion, and delivers the famous “Bring Him Home” (aka “The Prayer”) with an emotional melodic intensity, leaving the final falsetto measures to linger hauntingly in the air. Physically and vocally, Valjean is a demanding assignment which Salisbury aces with flying colors.

Les Miserables  South Bend (IN) Civic Theatre
Valjean (Stephen M. Salisbury, center) is comforted by Marius (Mike Bogdan) and Cosette (Kathleen Reeb) as the spirit of Fantine (Natalie MacRae) waits in this scene from the South Bend Civic Theatre production of LES MISERABLES.
His dogged nemesis is Inspector Javert (Aaron Nichols), a martinet to whom the letter of the law is everything. Nichols, who never softens, also has a powerful voice which is well-used in “Stars” when faced with Valjean’s kindness, his reaction is fatal (and requires a large amount of trust between the actor and the stage crew!)

The three ladies who play the most important roles in the life of Valjean are Fantine (Natalie MacRae), a factory worker whose pleas for help he ignores; Cosette (Kathleen Raab), Fantine’s daughter whom he rescues and raises; and Eponine (Samantha Funk), another child of the gutter who gives her life for love. All three have familiar solos and all handle them well.

The comic relief in “Les Miz” is supplied by the Thenardiers (Will Heckaman and Dawn Marie Hagerty) , a coarse couple of thieves always looking out for themselves. Their “Master of the House” and “Beggars at The Feast” say it all about their philosophy of life. Unfortunately, like Heckaman’s solo “Dog Eat Dog,” the lyrics are mostly unintelligible.

Marius (Mike Bogdan), a young student, falls instantly in love with Cosette, who returns his affection just as quickly (“A Heart Full of Love”). Marius and fellow student Enjolras (Sean Leyes, who has an especially powerful baritone,) lead an ill-fated revolution which begins with the familiar, lockstep flag-waving first act finale.

Les Miserables  South Bend (IN) Civic TheatreOrchestra director Rebecca A. Wilson and her 18 musicians are somewhere else in the building, seen briefly before and after the show via the video camera that links them with the singers. They are a much better orchestra than SBCT has had to date, but the tempos all seem the same which, in a “sung-through musical,” is like delivering all the dialogue at the same pace and tends to make the three-hour running time seem even longer. This also is true of the staging, which is mostly static, especially whenever there is a crowd.

The set no longer can use the turntable which made the many scenes flow smoothly from one to another. Instead, it relies on hinged flats on which scenes are projected and the addition of a few set pieces to designate location changes. The change works well and seems fairly flexible. Greta Fisher’s moody lighing design is a definite asset.

The costumes are mostly the requisite drab but some of the blowsier prostitutes (and Madame Thenardier) came dangerously close to wardrobe malfunctions on opening night. Stand up, ladies!

Then there are the wigs. Valjean must deal with two that fit very badly and one hilariously dreadful red beard. Fantine, dragged off to sell her hair, exits with long black locks and returns with short brown hair. Ditto Cosette. First seen with bouncing blonde ringlets, she is reunited with Marius and sports straight brown hair.

Giving credit where credit is due, however, the cast, crew and orchestra obviously worked long and hard to recreate the world of Jean Valjean. Whatever the flaws, there is no doubt the opening night audience was thrilled with the local “Les Miz.”

“LES MISERABLES” plays through Aug. 3 in the theater at 403 N. Main St. South Bend. For show times and reservations, call 234-1112 or visit www.sbct.org

Laughs, Chills In The Barn's 'Deathtrap'

Few contemporary authors have been as successful as novelists, playwrights and screenwriters as the late Ira Levin.

Although his comedy “No Time for Sargeants” was an award-winner on stage and screen (and brought fame to Andy Griffith), his genre of choice was mystery thrillers.

One which combined both thrills and laughs — and was a hit on stage and screen — was “Deathtrap,” which opened Tuesday evening at The Barn Theatre in Augusta, Mich.

The play-within-a-play, which opened on Broadway in 1978, still holds the record for being its longest-running comedy thriller. Check out The Barn production and you’ll understand why.

Actually, its not exactly a play-within-a-play, it’s about a playwright with writer’s block and the writing of a murder play that eventually leaps (literally!) off the printed page and into the lives of the playwright, Sidney Bruhl (Robert Newman), his wife Myra (Samantha Rickard) and a former student Clifford Anderson (Patrick Hunter).

Stirring the murderous mix are Helga ten Dorp (Penelope Alex), a psychic renting the cottage next door, and Porter Milgrim (Steven Burright), Bruhl’s lawyer and friend.

To Levin’s credit, if seeing “Deathtrap” for the first time, you will never spot the endgame. I won’t begin to unravel the twisted plotline because even if I could remember all the detailed ins-and-outs (make that dead/not dead), what makes this thriller worth seeing (or seeing again) are the performances, especially those of Newman and Alex, with Hunter a close third.

[caption id="attachment_488" align="alignleft" width=""]Deathtrap  The Barn Theatre  Augusta  MIPlaywright Sidney Brush (Robert Newman, center) urges Clifford Anderson (Patrick Hunter) to try on Houdini’s handcuffs as Myra Bruhl (Samantha Rickard) looks on anxiously in this scene from DEATHTREAP.[/caption]

Few contemporary authors have been as successful as novelists, playwrights and screenwriters as the late Ira Levin.

Although his comedy “No Time for Sargeants” was an award-winner on stage and screen (and brought fame to Andy Griffith), his genre of choice was mystery thrillers.

One which combined both thrills and laughs — and was a hit on stage and screen — was “Deathtrap,” which opened Tuesday evening at The Barn Theatre in Augusta, Mich.

The play-within-a-play, which opened on Broadway in 1978, still holds the record for being its longest-running comedy thriller. Check out The Barn production and you’ll understand why.

Actually, its not exactly a play-within-a-play, it’s about a playwright with writer’s block and the writing of a murder play that eventually leaps (literally!) off the printed page and into the lives of the playwright, Sidney Bruhl (Robert Newman), his wife Myra (Samantha Rickard) and a former student Clifford Anderson (Patrick Hunter).

Stirring the murderous mix are Helga ten Dorp (Penelope Alex), a psychic renting the cottage next door, and Porter Milgrim (Steven Burright), Bruhl’s lawyer and friend.

To Levin’s credit, if seeing “Deathtrap” for the first time, you will never spot the endgame. I won’t begin to unravel the twisted plotline because even if I could remember all the detailed ins-and-outs (make that dead/not dead), what makes this thriller worth seeing (or seeing again) are the performances, especially those of Newman and Alex, with Hunter a close third.

Deathtrap  The Barn Theatre  Augusta  MI

Rickard’s Myra is easily intimidated by her forceful and manipulative husband. She spends most of her time frozen stiffly on the couch or in a corner of the couple’s home, a rebuilt stable. Burright is quite believable as an attorney who almost-but-not-quite suspects his client of a hidden agenda.

Hunter is the linchpin of the plot, and infuses the budding playwright with just the right mix of hero worship and blossoming distrust. His metamorphosis is unexpected but actually not surprising and he moves well from victim to the driver’s seat.

As she has done all season (and, in fact, for many seasons), Barn veteran Alex is right on the money with her interpretation of the psychic next door. It may seem as though Helga fell off a gypsy caravan, but her belief in her visions is very real and she does foreboding well. Her accent is never overdone and her wonderful comic timing kicks in to provoke laughs in all the right places. She is a real pleasure to watch and certainly underscores that old saying about no small parts.

Newman, on the other hand, has the unenviable task of delivering a large majority of the dialogue, much of it so similar as to be daunting to a lesser actor. Not only does his familiar baritone (Ok. I watched “The Guiding Light,” too) make every line easily accessible, but it’s varied shadings are aural clues to what’s going on in his devious mind. He shifts from devoted husband to emotionless killer in the blink of an eye, and moves easily and with the assurance the role demands.

You can say the color of choice for this “Deathtrap” is, in more ways than one, brown! Roy Brown, usually seen creating memorable characters, serves as director. Deathtrap  The Barn Theatre  Augusta  MIIn keeping with the stable/lodge setting, the walls are brown as are the costumes for Newman and Rickard. Even Alex had a touch of the forest. Hunter was a bit too unkempt, costume-wise, to be in the Bruhl league., but at least he was in blue jeans.

A very large panel hung with instruments of murder which reportedly were used in Bruhl’s plays was a focal point of the scenic design by James Culley and Burright. No surprise, they were more than just set dressing.

“Deathtrap” has three scenes in each of its two acts. The charge of the stage crew between each scene was rather disconcerting but the pace set by director Brown and his cast never faltered and, at one point, the entire audience literally jumped and screamed.

It was the sound of people at live theater having a good time —— being scared to death!

“DEATHTRAP” plays through July 21 in the theater on M-96 between Galesburg and Augusta, MI. For performance times and reservations, call (269) 731-4121 between 10 a.m. and 10 p.m. daily or visit www.barntheatre.com

'Dolly!' Going Strong at Wagon Wheel

Sometimes, it takes a new look at an old standard to make us realize how good the “classics” can be.

Proof of this is in the Wagon Wheel Theatre production of the multi-Tony Award-winning musical “Hello, Dolly,” which opened Wednesday evening in the Warsaw playhouse.

A wildly energetic company under the ever-sharp eye of director/choreographer Scott Michaels gives the meddling widow from Yonkers a burst of new life.

Suddenly, in case you haven’t noticed before, Jerry Herman’s score provides a plethora of melodies from which to choose for humming on the way home. Personal favorites: “It Takes A Woman,” “Elegance” and “Dancing,” but probably the most familiar is the title tune, which spent months on the ‘60s pop charts thanks to Louis “Satchmo” Armstrong.

The character of the indefatigable Dolly Gallagher Levi was created by Carol Channing, who made it her signature role, and has been played by some of the most prestigious divas of the musical comedy world. Not easy footsteps in which to follow.

Kira Lace Hawkins takes up the challenge of becoming Dolly and delivers an engaging and vocally dynamic character who is, as Horace Vandergelder finally admits, a “wonderful woman.” Distributing “business” cards for every eventuality, Hawkins tempers Dolly’s manipulative exterior with a wistful interior that looks for a sign from her dead husband giving permission to her hunt for his successor. And she has a strong and warm soprano that gives depth to “Before the Parade Passes By” and adds a New York snap to “So Long, Dearie.” Her NY accent, which for some can be a problem, is there but not too overdone, and her iron fist/velvet glove achieves the results for which every wife aspires.

Hello, Dolly!  Wagon Wheel Theatre  Warsaw  INAs Vandergelder, the object of her intentions, Robert Joseph Miller delivers a beautifully blustering misogynist whose bark is worse than his bite and worth a lot of laughs. His reactions are perfectly timed and never overdone. His eventual (and unavoidable) capitulation is a foregone conclusion but much fun to watch.

“Young love” is handled expertly by a trio of talented pairs.

Rob Montgomery is Cornelius Hackl, Vandergelder’s chief clerk, and Lauren Roesner is Irene Molloy, a widowed milliner. In spite of themselves, they find true love and deliver the show’s lovely ballads., “Ribbons Down My Back” and “It Only Takes a Moment,” with empathetic clarity.

Kevin Clay and Collean Joy Gallagher are Barnaby Tucker and Minnie Fay, Vandergelder’s clerk and Irene’s assistant, who come together in a delightful rush and share the search for love and “Elegance.”

Kevin Nietzel and Heather Dell (a GREAT cryer) are artist Ambrose Kemper and Ermengard, Vandergelder’s niece, who hope to dance their way into matrimony.

Special notice to Sarah Jackson as Ernestina Money (and in the outstanding “gown” of bright yellow and purple by costumer extraordinaire Stephen R. Hollenbeck, you can’t miss her!) for giving new meaning to “chow down.”

Leading players and featured performers all are on their best games here, but the loudest and most sustained applause must go to the gentlemen (and some ladies) of the Harmonia Gardens wait staff. Displaying an incredible amount of stamina — and some equally incredible coordinated dance moves — they combine to make the daunting “Waiter’s Gallop” an unquestionable highlight of this production.

Leaping and twirling and tossing the cuisine with unerring accuracy, they never miss a step (or a glass) and move smoothly from one seemingly impossible pattern to another. You really have to see them to believe it. (Note: Check out the disgruntled droop on the waiter who consistently chalks up a “near-miss”.)

In addition to the “Gallop” and the title tune, “Dolly!” boasts several familiar ensemble song-and-dance numbers. From the opening “Call on Dolly” through the wildly colorful “Put on Your Sunday Clothes” to the happily-ever-after finale, the young people blend their voices beautifully while never skipping a beat.

In the WW tradition of “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” the beautifully flexible set was designed for an earlier “Dolly” by the late Roy Hine. It works just as well in this decade.

“HELLO, DOLLY!” plays through July 13 in the theater at 2517 E. Centre Street in Warsaw. For show times and reservations, call 267-8041 or (800) 823-2618 or visit www.wagonwheeltheatre.com.