By PAM HARBAUGH
You might be able to hear the band playing, but you can also hear the joints creaking in “Hello, Dolly!” the production currently on stage at Surfside Playhouse.
The Cocoa Beach community theater opened this musical one day past the 50th anniversary of its opening on Broadway. And despite Kimberly Dickman’s winning charm and deep likeability as Dolly Levi, the matchmaking widow who is the toast of the town, the musical really shows its age.
“Hello, Dolly!” has music and lyrics by the incomparable Jerry Herman and book by Michael Stewart. It was inspired by Thornton Wilder’s play “The Matchmaker.” It’s set in that parasol toting, we’re-just-so-darned-happy, turn-of-the-century Yonkers.
In it, Dolly Levi is a card-carrying Jill of all trades Her deepest expertise, though, is charming others to see her view of life. And we’re okay with that because Dolly has everyone’s best interests at heart.
Here, she works to convince a miserly widower, businessman Horace Vandergelder (the funny Steven Wolf), that he wants to marry her. She also helps his lachrymose niece, Ermengarde (Maggie Hansotte), in her pursuit to marry Ambrose (Chris Tsocanos), despite Vandergelder’s objections.
A subplot concerns Vandergelder’s clerks, Cornelius and Barnaby, who take off work one day, head to New York City and fall in love with milliner Irene Molloy and her clerk, Minnie. Actually, this subplot emerges as the most engaging part of the show. Cornelius, sung and performed delightfully by Rob Landers (whom I want to laud further but shouldn’t since he’s a co-worker), and Barnaby, the always sweet-voiced Daniel Grest, are endearing characters despite their nearly criminal behavior. Rebecca Dixon is a lovely Irene Molloy and Molly Rouzer is pert.
Director Bryan Bergeron, so talented at broad comedy, shows his flair for humor in the Harmonia Gardens scene (the one with the title song) as he weaves an army of waiters in and out of complex blocking, allowing for an unintended and happy exchange of wallets.
Yet in spite of the gathering of enthusiastic talent, the show’s production values diminish the impact.
The most egregious of the scenic problems are the signs which have crooked, sloppy hand-drawn lettering. Nevertheless, it is impressive how, in a short amount of time, so very much scenery gets moved on and off stage, repeatedly.
Musically, dear Ms. Dickman strains to deliver her knock-out numbers in a range that seems just too high for her. That is a curiosity, because she’s a very good singer and has solid credits to her name. But that might be due to the synthesized music track which evokes a turn-of-the-century carousel, and, after a while, one does want to get off.
One of the visual appeals of “Hello, Dolly!” is the rich array of costumes. Here, though, the palette ranges mostly from pale to very pale, despite those feathers. And, please, do give those waiters aprons.
With any musical or straight play done to death across the country, a theater needs to go the distance in celebrating tradition or find innovative insight into it to bring something fresh to the stage. But with “Hello, Dolly!” Surfside Playhouse, a community theater with a celebrated reputation for taking big chances on its stage, slips on a missed opportunity.
SIDE O’ GRITS: “Hello, Dolly!” runs through Feb. 2 at Surfside Playhouse, 301 Ramp Road, Cocoa Beach. $20 general, $18 seniors/active military, $15 students. 321-783-3127, surfsideplayers.com