A show like the Jerry Herman classic Hello, Dolly! demands a very special woman in the title role. Every plot twist and nearly every song revolve around this shrewd, sassy, Gay Nineties New York matchmaker.
Perhaps that's why Richey Suncoast Theatre director Marie Skelton was so pleased when three-time Tommy Award-winning singer-actor Anne Lakey showed up for auditions.
"She's perfect for that role," Ms. Skelton said shortly after announcing the cast list.
Ms. Lakey has won awards for comedy (Love, Sex and the IRS; Lend Me a Tenor) and drama (Cemetery Club) and has been an audience favorite in many area musicals (Zorba; Miss Hannigan in Annie).
"She's a great actor with a good voice," Ms. Skelton said this week.
Another multi-award winner plays Dolly's romantic target, Horace Vandergelder (Bob Marcela, Max in Lend Me a Tenor; The Odd Couple), the half-a-millionaire store owner that Dolly is ostensibly pairing with the lovely widow Irene Molloy (Liz Onley Waldorf, Tommy winner as Reno in Anything Goes).
Hello, Dolly! is all about the ambitious widow Levi pairing up people. She wants to match her friend, the poor but honest artist Ambrose Kemper (Jeffrey Oles), with the love of his life, Ermengarde (Kristy Carlson), despite the disdain of Ermengarde's over-protective uncle Horace.
Vandergelder's two clerks, Cornelius Hack and Barnaby Tucker (Keith Surplus and Micah Laird), are also in the market for romance, despite their near-empty wallets.
They all end up at the city's most expensive restaurant, Harmonia Gardens, where Dolly is greeted like a queen as she makes a grande dame entrance to the tune of the title song.
Money mixups then lead the whole bunch to court, where the judge (Bill Schommer, Tommy for Tito in Tenor) is charmed by Dolly, but not so much by Horace.
The large cast includes a chorus of 13 children and eight adults, who perform in three key scenes, coached by music director Stella Gaukshyteyn.
Ms. Skelton supervised the costume designs, and actor Stella Sylvester (Louise in My Husband's Wild Desires) designed and made the dramatic 1890s-style hats to go with each woman's costume.