The fun part for Johnice Thoms is learning about Dolly, the title character of “Hello Dolly,” which Runnels Theatre is bringing to the stage.
The budding actress is finding out who Dolly is, why she meddles and the ways the two of them are alike.
Thoms may not have made that connection before stepping into the role, but she says exploring the character has been interesting.
The story is set at the turn of the 20th century. Dolly is a widow, known for her romantic matchmaking skills. She’s also independent and assertive at a time when women weren’t.
Dolly has the strength to change her life, and Thoms identifies with that strength.
Thoms is making her theatrical debut in the production.
She’s been on stage before, but as a singer. She’s also the Runnels School’s chorus director, and she’s serving as the production’s vocal director.
But it’s her lead role as Dolly that has people talking. People in the cast, anyway, because many of them are Thoms’ former students. Some are current students.
“And it’s been interesting getting to know all of them on another level,” Thoms says.
The story opens with Dolly, a young widow, whose mission is to convince the curmudgeonly “half-a-millionaire” Horace Vandergelder that she’s his match. Of course she doesn’t tell him that and instead manipulates Horace into thinking it’s his idea.
Meanwhile, she busies herself by matching up Horace’s clerks, Cornelius Hackland and Barnaby Tucker with the town milliner and her assistant. The only problem is the milliner is supposed to be Horace’s match.
So the farcical confusion begins, weaving itself between such show favorites as “Before the Parade Passes By,” “Put on Your Sunday Clothes,” “It Only Takes a Moment,” “Elegance” and, of course, the title song, “Hello Dolly.”
This production is directed by Ann Dalrymple. Jill Swetnam is the orchestra conductor.
“Hello, Dolly!” has quite the pedigree. It premiered in 1964 on Broadway with Carol Channing in the lead role. Jerry Herman wrote the music and lyrics, and Michael Stewart the book. The story is based on Thornton Wilder’s 1938 farce, “The Merchant of Yonkers.” Wilder revised the script in 1955 and renamed it “The Matchmaker.”
The film version was released in 1969 with Barbra Streisand as Dolly and Gene Kelly as its director.
And now it’s time to say hello to Johnice Thoms as Dolly.
- CAST: Johnice Thoms, Dolly Levi; John Runnels, Horace Vandergelder; Steve Lalande, Cornelius Hackl; Brett Beoubay, Barnaby Tucker; Allyson Guay, Irene Molloy; Jennifer Carpenter, Minnie Fay; Quint Forgey, Ambrose Kemper; Lisa Forgey, Ernestina; James Broussard, Rudy, the head waiter; Laura Lane-Hernandez, Mrs. Rose. Ensemble: Suzi Brown, Michelle Dearie, Maegan Daquano, Claire Gowdy, Griffin Gowdy, Brookes Guay, Julia Justus, Dana Kahn, Lauren Kahn, Elizabeth Lockhart, Caleb Manning, Julie Martin, Max Morgan, Beth Morrison, Alison Nikitopoulos, Ona Carson Robbins and Anne Woods.
- ARTISTIC STAFF: Ann Dalrymple, Director; Jill Swetmann, Conucctor; Johnice Thoms, vocal director.