The Dolphin Show: Hello Dolly
By Grace Gay
The Dolphin Show’s 77th annual production, the classic Hello Dolly!, began its run this weekend with much enthusiasm and aplomb. The Dolphin Show, the largest annual student-produced musical, is anticipated every year and this year’s show features sparkling Northwestern talent, particularly Christina Layton, whose energetic and dynamic voice bring the main character, Dolly Levi, to life.
The plot of the play follows Dolly, a meddling matchmaker, as she attempts to secure wealthy and grumpy Horace Vandergelder as her second husband. At the same time, she tries to create relationships between a variety of characters, from Vandergelder’s clerks to his niece and her assistant. Dolly is an optimistic delight, full of kindness.
Isabel Perry, director of this year’s show, has an obvious love for the show, introduced to her as a child. “Hello, Dolly! is always what I picture when I think musical, when I think Dolphin,” Isabel says, “It’s why I fell in love with musical theatre in the first place, and more than anything, it’s a coming home story.” The play, which follows the cast of characters around New York and Yonkers over the course of a rather hectic and wild day, first began running on Broadway in the 60s, and has a long beloved history.
Perry describes the show as a “fairy tale” and “pop-up book,” ideas which carry through to the production and set design, as the lighting and set pieces are colorful and complex. Indeed, one of the main set pieces for the hat shop in the play looms exactly like a pop-up from a children’s book, all pastel. The work of the cast members and crew is obvious in the beauty of the show.
The show’s main flaws originate primarily from the source material; the misogyny and sexism of the original script speak to the time of its creation. The Dolphin Show’s production does little to transcend these tropes, as the patriarchial ideals, mainly played for laughs, are still left somewhat unquestioned within the play. The character arcs also have markedly quick beats that, due to a combination of choices by the production regarding what to prioritize, and flaws with the original material, really play into a suspension of disbelief in order to have a happy ending. Nonetheless, the production is a delight, costumes and cast each perfect for their roles.
Director Perry also points out her favorite moment in the production as the song “Put on Your Sunday Clothes” encore. The number features a build to an encore and dance sequence that Perry says the cast particularly loved because of the opportunity to perform such a fun and invigorating routine. The number comes together with that great dance sequence, which Perry says she lit up seeing because she’s “a sucker for so many people, especially my peers, onstage all doing the same thing”.
The community around the play also feeds back to the Evanston community itself. Casey Watson, Executive Producer of the production, is excited to host a panel for Evanston-area high school students to “give them insight into how undergraduate students make this incredible show happen every year,” as part of the show’s mission to build a vibrant theatre community at Northwestern.
Tickets are available at nudolphinshow.org/tickets, where Northwestern students can use the code STUDENT for a discount. The show is a fun, lush romp and bit of escapism for anyone who has time to see the last days of this play next weekend, on February 1 and 2.