VERO BEACH — You don’t get any better, any more professional, any more resplendent than Riverside Theatre’s production of Hello, Dolly!
Directed and choreographed by James Brennan, this production is a dazzling bouquet of theater delights. Mr. Brennan takes Jerry Herman’s music and lyrics and Michael Stewart’s book and, with a clean vaudeville aesthetic, forges them into a show that is fresh and fun.
Indeed, it thrills from the outset when the painted old-timey drop curtain rises, revealing an ensemble of nouveaux boulevardiers and their ladies decked out in glorious costumes standing in front of another drop painted to look like 1890 New York City’s Central Park. Just as you catch your breath from the visual treat, in comes Broadway performer Michele Ragusa in her role of Dolly Gallagher Levi, the remarkable matchmaker with a business card for all seasons and reasons.
What a fantastic find in this performer. At once charming and witty, Ms. Ragusa can make you laugh with her exquisite understated humor, nudge a tear during her tender monologues with her dear departed husband, Ephraim, and scale any note you set in front of her as if she were taking a Sunday stroll. You’ll need a hanky in her effortless “Before the Parade Passes By.” Both feminine and funny, Ms. Ragusa employs some cagey but subtle rim-shot takes in this production, which is so appropriate considering the show’s highly presentational style. She talks to the audience, takes them into her confidence and even shares dinner with them in a very funny dinner scene. Truly, resistance to fall in love with Ms. Ragusa or her Dolly is quite futile.[/vc_column_text]