Frank Anzalone serves as adjunct Associate professor in the Ira Brind School of Theater Arts in Philadelphia where he teaches Advanced Stage Management and Fundamentals of Stage Management.
Frank is also an adjunct faculty member in the Theater department at Drexel University, where he has been since 2009.
The Hello, Dolly saga began With Howard Taubman’s first paragraph of his review on January 17th, 1964, “As a play Thornton Wilder’s The Matchmaker vibrated with unheard melodies and unseen dances.” Hello, Dolly added those elements!
Frank Anzalone directed Hello, Dollyat The Walnut Street Theater in Philadelphia in the Spring of 2004. This was not the first time he directed Dolly. In the seventies and eighties, he did five dinner theater productions of it!
These productions were done in Philadelphia and Maryland. This was in four different theaters. These were not with major names but all of his Dollys have had respectable careers. The first time he directed, it was in Maryland and there were two people connected with that show who were pretty spiffy.
He had Jean Anne Kain, a well-known Columbia musical performer and dinner theater pioneer as his Dolly Levi. She has since passed on but at that time she was known as the Queen of the Dinner Theater Circuit. She was absolutely glorious. This was in the early Seventies. It was a gorgeous production with her. In that production, playing Mrs. Molloy, was the very lovely Susan Bigelow. She has done a bevy of stuff since then including several television shows. On Broadway, she was Nellie Forbush at Lincoln Center in 1987. Susan Bigelow was also in the Bway original casts of Working ['Just a Housewife'] and Into the Light.
She was definitely a leading lady and one of Frank’s favorite Irene Molloys.
Frank’s credentials include a Masters Degree in directing from Catholic University in Washington DC. He taught and directed. For twenty-three years, he was the production stage manager at The Walnut Street Theater in Washington DC. During his tenure at the Walnut, he was very fortunate to be able to direct several productions on the main stage there.
It Takes a Woman: Tom Ligon leads the MenHe did a production of 1776 that starred James Brennan with costume designer Gail Cooper Hecht.
Frank did a production of Anything Goes in 1998 on a replica Tony Walton’s bus and truck tour set. Then Hello, Dolly came along in 2004.
Frank left the Walnut Street Theater and for the past seven years, at the time of this writing, he is an adjunct associate professor at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia where he teaches the fundamentals and advanced stage management.
That is what he is most known for because this has been a significant chunk of his life.
The production of Hello, Dolly happened as a result of Frank suggesting it. He told them he thought it would be a great production. It was on their list of shows that they desired to do. They did five shows a season, three of those were musicals. Ultimately, it was inevitable that this show was going to come to be.
When a theater does three musicals a year, and they’ve been doing this for years, at some point, they are going to do Hello, Dolly!
A lot of people stay away from Dolly for many reasons. Two of those reasons are the costumes and the sets. The costumes are a huge part of the show. Costume designer Gail Cooper Hecht had also worked on the 1981 Music Fair production of Dolly starring Carol Channing with the Freddy Wittop costumes.
She was the costume designer for Frank’s Walnut Street production and assisted him in recreating that wardrobe by using costumes from the 1995 revival with Channing.
That set of costumes had been bought by a theater company in New Orleans! She actually went down there to locate them and go through the stock. The Dodger Costume Company was still in New York at the time. They had costumes from both the 1964 Broadway production and 1978 Broadway revival. She pulled from all three productions and the Walnut Street production looked sensational.
Gail knew the palate that Frank desired to recreate and made that a reality. It has been done with several different Technicolor palates over the years. That includes everything from the original Freddy Wittop costumes to the Jonathan Bixby costumes of the 1995 revival. Channing still has in her possession the ORIGINAL 1964 gown. The original costumes worn by Channing never found its way to Brooks-VanHorn or Eaves-Brooks. They were always recreated for whatever actress was playing the role.
The Ginger Rogers opening outfit, a costume that is a blazing tangerine orange, was available for purchase at one time on EBay. Gail wasn’t able to find everything when they went on their search.
The entire collection has been spread out over the years.
In the original production, except for Dolly, all of the costumes were in sepia tones. The backdrop was also in sepia tones. When Carol/Dolly arrives in bright tangerine orange, against all that sepia, it was magnificent.
When Put on Your Sunday Clothes happens with all those hot electric colors, WOW! With the Pearl Bailey production, those shocking colors looked so great against black skin on the chorus members with hot pinks and chartreuses and yellows and magentas.
Frank even became an authority on the number of times Dolly changes her costumes on stage. When she goes from the hat shop into Before the Parade Passes By, all she does is remove her green jacket. She is in her skirt and blouse for that entire sequence.
She starts Act Two in the famed Dolly gown. When she leaves the Harmonia Gardens after the courtroom scene, she has changed into a blue skirt and blouse that she wears for So Long, Dearie. When she goes into Vandergelder’s Hay and Feed Store for the final scene, she merely wears a vest over the blouse in blue with a white brimmed hat for that final scene. Frank never knew all this the first time he directed Dolly. The first time he directed Dolly, Frank had her changing three times in Act One which actually needs only two costumes. He had her changing four times in Act Two! That’s not the way it should be done.
There are essentially three costumes in Act Two including the Finale wedding dress. This is something one learns along the way. Frank has made a career of research on this show since 1972. He loves the show. He loves the music.
Frank loves the history of the show. The road to Broadway is interesting. Act One ended with Vandergelder singing Penny in My Pocket about how he amassed his wealth. Second stop, The National Theater in Washington DC, Jerry Herman writes Before the Parade Passes By based on a suggestion from Charles Strouse.
There are persistent rumors that Bob Merrill wrote both Elegance and The Motherhood March.
There could be an entire encyclopedia on the costumes, scenery, and music alone, the tricks, the props. Frank says he could discuss this show for hours.
With each production, there were various points of attack in casting the show, height differentials, voice types, hair color…Michael McGurk dyed his hair blonde. Barnaby should be blonde. It makes him more adorable, the same thing with Minnie Fay.
There are various points of view when a director is casting the six principal roles. It is very telling in how the director sees the show. In casting Mrs. Molloy, Frank desires to cast a deliciously sensual actress who can show a widow being brought out of her shell by falling in love with this exuberant clerk who works for Vandergelder.
Irene Molloy is able to find love in her life through this adventure that she takes in New York. The powers that be must be careful in how the cast the role.
The actress playing Mrs. Molloy must be able to make that transition from widow who is closed to any type of romance and very guarded.
Mrs. Molloy must never be a spinster or an old maid. The audience must be able to see a true transformation as she sings Ribbons Down My Back.
She meets Cornelius and blossoms, especially in Act Two.
Before interviewing for this project, Frank was reading something on line about the casting of the film. Marianne McAndrew, who was cast as Irene
Molloy in the film, was dubbed. There is documented footage of Ann-Margret’s screen test for this role in costume and on the set singing Ribbons Down My Back. It’s extraordinary. Why was she not cast in the film? From the screen test alone, one sees how brilliant she would have been in the film.
Was it Barbra Streisand’s decision? Gene Kelly’s? 20th Century Fox’s? Ann-Margret’s? Who knows?
How much influence did Streisand have at that time?
Much has been written and said about the fact that Matthau and Streisand did not get along.
The metallic gold Harmonia Gardens dress that Barbra wore for the title number was recently sold by Debbie Reynolds.
It was in her possession for years. The film just does not work for Frank.
If they were to cast the show today, Frank would love to see someone like Bette Midler because of her voice and comedic ability.
The choreographer for Dolly at Walnut Street Theater was Bill Bateman. Bill had worked on both the ’78 and 95 revivals, so he knew the choreography like the back of his hand and basically, they recreated that choreography. They did make some cuts in the Dancing number. Frank has a favorite creation of his that has followed him with all of the productions that Bill was willing to put into effect. Frank feels that this is a real highpoint of his productions.
They were not able to build that huge locomotive and caboose that is so much a part of Put on Your Sunday Clothes, so when Frank was doing Hello, Dolly back in the Seventies and Eighties on a much smaller scale, they created a train by building a two dimensional locomotive that Cornelius was inside of to pick up and move forward with and Barnaby inside a two dimensional caboose which helped to form a human train. Barnaby has that famous line, “Holy Cabooses!” which is where Frank got the idea for this. Between Cornelius and Barnaby was a train of chorus people in the rainbow colored costumes. The women had parasols and the parasols were spinning like wheels. They had the passarelle and this human train traveled all around the passarelle incorporating the Broadway choreography, thanks to Bill.
It came to Frank one day when he was wondering how he was going to deal with an iconic moment in the show with a limited budget.
Dolly at the Walnut Street Theater was Deborah-Jean Templin. Deborah-Jean, as of this writing, is out with a tour that she created of the famous women who were on the Titanic, The Unsinkable Women.
Deborah-Jean has performed this show all over the country for the past several years. She did the first production in the Studio Theater at The Walnut. She has been on National tours of Mamma Mia. She was also on the National tour of Titanic. She is a delightful woman, She also played Miss Hannigan in Annie at The Walnut. She was a breath of fresh air as Dolly Levi.
The advice that Frank gives his Dollys is that although Wilder wrote The Matchmaker as a farce and that Dolly IS a farcical type character, she MUST be rooted in reality because what the audience needs to get in addition to all the frills and frolic is her sadness over the loss of her husband, Ephraim Levi. She has these beautiful monologues in which she talks to her dear departed husband about desiring to move on with her life and getting this sign from Ephraim that he approves of Vandergelder with the blue wallpaper.
Then there is the love story between Cornelius Hackl and Irene Molloy. Dolly creates that. If the audience does not believe that she is the creator of all of this magic rooted in reality, the show becomes a cartoon and that must not happen.
Frank’s direction bears no resemblance to Gower Champion’s. Frank is not sure what Bill Bateman brought over with his choreography. As of this writing, it has been eight years since the Walnut Street Theater production.
For the most part, it was the original choreography. Bill had to make adjustments because they were limited in the number of dancers. There are limitations in regional theater. It can’t match Broadway. The bulk of the Dancingsequence was aborted. Also, using Frank’s idea of the human train in Put on your Sunday Clothes was unique to his productions.
The influence and thematic relationship that Bill Bateman had with the Gower Champion choreography due to the two revivals he was involved in as dance captain was at the heart of his choreography.
One of the most intricate dance numbers is The Waiter’s Gallop. If one were to come on to that piece of music with no knowledge of the show, or what the choreography was, is really stymied as to how that Gallop is to be performed. The Waiter’s Gallop calls for a myriad of bizarre props, a turkey that is skewered with a sword, dishes that are teetering and tottering.
One of the things that Frank discovered over the years was how to do the dumplings in the eating scene with Dolly. She has to keep stuffing these dumplings in her mouth.
The first time he directed Hello, Dolly, they used honeydew and cantaloupe melons.
It was the only thing they could use that their Dolly could swallow easily and quickly. As time went on, he learned the tricks of the trade of the dumpling making. Over the years with his research, he discovered that the first production of Dolly starring Carol Channing, they used pink cotton candy as the dumplings.
There was a cotton candy machine backstage that delivered the goods each performance. Channing was able to swallow them one, two, three because they melted in her mouth. By the time she had gotten back to Broadway with the ’78 revival, she was having trouble with the cotton candy.
They had to come up with a new device. The one who taught Frank the new device was Bill Bateman.
A board had been created with sixty or one hundred watt light bulbs. Then you take tissue paper like Kleenex that has been dipped in tea and place each of these pieces so that it closes down over the light bulbs. When the paper dries, they are removed and “dumplings” are made.
The “dumplings” are filled with air because they’ve been created on a bulb.
They’ve been dried, so they stay in that shape. They are placed in Dolly’s mouth one at a time. The moment that the tissue hits the saliva of the mouth and tongue, they decompress. Dolly then places them to the side of her mouth to the pocket of her jaw. When she is done eating and takes her napkin to dry her mouth, she spits them unbeknownst to the audience into her napkin. It is a fascinating piece of business. It is one piece of business that most people ask about when they decide to do a production of Dolly.
Frank also advises them to get a cash register. When searching for a cash register for the Walnut Street production, Frank located props from the 1977 revival of Dolly that had been bought by the Dallas Summer Musicals. They still had everything in a warehouse. Walnut Street purchased everything including the cash register that Channing used. After the Walnut Street production ended, it was given to Frank as a gift. It sits in his living room. Frank says he is insane when it comes to this show.
There are two things that Dolly has that touches Frank on a personal level. She’s a magician. She’s an exasperating creature to some who watch her in action from the moment she arrives on stage in that horse cart.
Frank loves Dolly Levi because she is all about life. She is first and foremost a survivor.
She has survived the passing of a marriage of great love with Ephraim Levi, her dearly departed husband.
Dolly is not only turning her life around. She is turning around the lives of others, Cornelius, Irene, Barnaby, and Minnie, and especially Horace. Up until his meeting of Dolly, he was a real curmudgeon. He had such an ugly personality. She is able to let EVERYBODY see the brighter side of life. In bringing that thrill of adventure that is so much a part of her, that is what appeals to Frank. It is such an optimistic feel for someone who is directing Hello, Dolly! The same thing happens when someone is producing or watching a production of it. Frank has always loved it. He has seen revivals of it. He saw Pearl Bailey in it. He saw Ethel Merman do it which was quite an accomplishment with the two extra Jerry Herman songs added just for her. That, of course, was the final bit of the original Broadway run.
It is a “one in a million” show. There are so many discussions about who could play Dolly in a revival now on Broadway. Faith Prince and Patti LuPone have both been suggested.
It is going to be hard to find someone to do it.
Streisand was so wrong for it. When people think of Dolly Gallagher Levi, they think she is Jewish because of her last name. Streisand gave her that Jewish connotation, but Dolly is not Jewish. She is Dolly Levi, born Gallagher.
Dolly is an Irish woman. Streisand did not embody that in any way, shape, or form. Such an indelible mark has been made by all the Broadway Dollys that it will be a tough role to cast. Perhaps the way to go is to build up from scratch. Abandon the original costume and set designs. Abandon the original choreography and direction. Frank doesn’t even know if that will work.
Frank started out as the production stage manager at The Walnut Street Theater. When he was offered the chance to direct, he was given free range to do as he desired. Since Hello, Dolly, the only stuff he has really done of any significance, according to him, is stuff that he has done at the University. He did a concert version of Stephen Sondheim’s Follies.
He did a production of Big River with Forrest McClendon of The Scottsboro Boys.
He also did a concert version of 1776. Dolly has made a mark on Frank the six times that he has done it.
It has always reminded him how beautiful the world is. Part Thornton Wilder, part Michael Stewart’s book adapted from that play, part of watching Carol Channing, part of reading the libretto, following the clues that are inherent in the script to bring the show to life…the cast, the company, the director, the creative team with such a zest for life, that is something that has always followed Frank.
With whatever is going on in the world at the time, with the economy, with the political scene, with the international scene in terms of various wars and conflicts, Hello, Dolly always takes people out of the doldrums or whatever is depressing them because it is such a burst of energy. When it is produced the way it was intended to be done, it is a burst of color. When a director has a rainbow of color, it is exhilarating to an audience in the same way as those glorious MGM movies were in the period of the forties and fifties in all that Technicolor. Judy Garland did it, June Allyson, Howard Keel, Kathryn Grayson, all of those great MGM people…Marge and Gower Champion.
All of them took everyone’s minds off of what was complicating their personal lives or complicating the life of America, Dolly is very much the same way in which it manages to transcend that.
Pearl Bailey was magnificent as Dolly; that all African-American Company was one of a kind. When it was first being talked about with the original choreography and costumes and sets and direction, everyone wondered how it would be done. They made those costumes work for Bailey. The same design but changing the hats and the blouses and the intensity, the purples and the greens against her African-American skin was stunning. It was special because it WAS ALL African-American. It was unheard of for a major all Caucasian Company to be completely re done with an all black cast. That has never been done any other time.
Can one imagine that happening with Mame or La Cage Aux Folles? Dolly is already exhilarating but to have someone like Pearl Bailey who was such a fun comedienne and such a brilliant actress was an added bonus.
Merman was magnificent.
Lewis Funke of The New York Times wrote on March 30th, 1970 that “what Ethel Merman does with Hello, Dolly, the title tune, had to be seen as well as heard.”
In 2005 at Hofstra College in Hempstead, Long Island, Frank saw a marvelous Dolly, the legendary Lorraine Serabian. She was nominated for Broadway’s 1969 Tony Award as Best Supporting or Featured Actress (Musical) for Zorba.
It is for a woman with a dynamite personality. It was popular in the heyday of summer stock companies throughout the Seventies. Michele Lee did several productions regionally. Randy Graff has done Dolly since then. Tovah Feldshuh did a production at The Papermill Playhouse. It takes a bigger than life personality, an actress who has comic skills and a voice. That’s what you need to do the show.
That’s what you need to create the ambiance, the mood, the theme, the color, the nature of the piece, the optimism that’s going to thrill an audience.
Frank used to work for Samuel French in the early Seventies. Samuel French, Inc. is an American company, founded by Samuel French and Thomas Hailes Lacy, who formed a partnership to combine their existing interests in London and New York. It publishes plays and represents authors. Frank knows all the musical Theater companies. Tams-Witmark has the rights to Hello, Dolly! Now, in the present, one can rent one or more different orchestrations. One can rent either the Carol Channing or Ethel Merman orchestrations.
Most women who do the show need to find the “in between.” Merman had the ability to belt a C sharp which happened during the Hello, Dolly number. A lot of women cannot hit that C Sharp. When Frank did the show with Deborah-Jean at The Walnut Street Theater, they combined both the Channing and Merman orchestrations to bring the show to life.
Some of the numbers that Channing sang were sung an octave lower than what Herman wrote. They cannot be sung in a soprano key or it is not Dolly. They have to be sung an octave lower. A lot of women cannot do that, so, with the Merman orchestrations now being published by Tams-Witmark, I Put My Hand In, Motherhood, and Dancing, which are low to begin with, it makes it much easier.
When Frank did Dolly in the Seventies with Jean Anne Kain, EVERYTHING was transposed. ALL of the Dollys on Broadway had the orchestrations redone to fix their voices. They were not all the same kind of singer. Channing had a great voice in a baritone range, then there was a succession of Dollys, ending with Merman.
The show was initially offered to Merman who turned it down. The first time that Frank directed Hello, Dolly was 1972. The perspective that Frank has now as opposed to then has to do with the fact that he has seen it several times since then. He has also read it a few times since then and has also done more research. He has gone to the Lincoln Center Library and has read more and seen more. He has seen color pictures of what the original colors and costumes and sets looked like. He was fortunate enough to hook up with Bill Bateman who thematically knew how the numbers fit the music that was originally created. Gail Cooper Hecht, having worked on the Channing revival, knew the palate.
Having a fabulous musical director who has since retired, Sherman Frank, was a major plus. He had conducted hundreds of Broadway shows going back to Dick Van Dyke and Chita Rivera in Bye Bye Birdie at the Martin Beck, now the Hirschfeld. Since 1972, Frank has also worked with more and more professional people.
He was able to put together an amazing team at The Walnut. With each production leading up to Walnut, he learned more and more how to stage it, what the sets should look like, where the doors needed to be in the hat shop, things that he did know until he was doing it again and again. “Oh, this is how to make Motherhood work. The closet needs to be stage left. The drapery needs to be stage right. The table cloth needs to be floor length and dead center where Barnaby hides.” Michael McGurk was Barnaby. He reminded Frank so much of Danny Lockin, who the world sadly lost due to a brutal murder. Lockin played Barnaby in the film as well as the Phyllis Diller and Ethel Merman Companies. He was murdered horrifically in a gay hate crime. On Sunday, August 21, 1977, Danny’s mother drove him to a taping of The Gong Show, a popular TV show which featured assorted talent competitions.
Some competitors were seriously talented, and some of them silly or bizarre. Danny and Billie Jo Conway, another of Jean Lockin’s dance instructors, had been invited to compete on the show. They did well– Danny and Billie Jo tied for first place. After the show, Danny told his mother to go on home without him- that he would catch a ride home with Billie Jo. On the way home, Danny and
Billie Jo decided to stop at a Garden Grove bar for a drink to celebrate their victory. Danny was later seen leaving the bar with Charles Leslie Hopkins, 34, who was described as a slight, bearded, former medical clerk.
Later that night, police were called by Hopkins to his Westminster apartment to report that a man had robbed him.
When they arrived at his apartment, they discovered Danny’s bloody body- stabbed almost 100 times.
Police arrested Hopkins and charged him with Danny’s murder. At the time of the arrest, police discovered a loose leaf notebook which had pictures of sexual tortures in it. (Source: http://www.dannylockin.com/death.htm)
Frank believes that Danny Lockin was the definitive Barnaby.
Tom Ligon was Horace at The Walnut. He is not necessarily a singer. He was, however in the original production of Your Own Thing with Rusty Thacker. He was primarily a television actor. He had been on Young and The Restless, Loving, Oz.
He became kind of a good luck charm for Frank. He also cast him as John Hancock in 1776 also at The Walnut. He returned to play Sir Evelyn in Anything Goes. After that, Frank asked him if he would like to play Vandergelder.
He brought wonderful charm to the role of Vandergelder.
Lisa Gunn was Mrs. Molloy. She used to tour with Marvin Hamlisch. He had a bit where he would create songs on the spot based on suggestions from the audience.
Lisa was his singer. She was a beautiful Irene Molloy. She was a phenomenal actress. The best version ever of Ribbons Down My Back, in Frank’s estimation, was by Florence Lacy when she played opposite the late Patrick Quinn as Cornelius. Patrick was a dear friend of Frank’s. Florence has that incredible belt chest voice.
Carol Channing wrote in her memoirs, Just Lucky I Guess, that Patrick Quinn made her deaf in her left ear!
At the time she wrote, “He stood right next to me, and he sang loud. He’s now our president of Actors’ Equity. I voted for him to get him off the stage.”
Two original trademarks of an Anzalone production of HELLO DOLLY are:
1. The ‘human’ train in Put On Your Sunday Clothes — comprised of Cornelius Hackl in a two-dimensional locomotive and Barnaby [Holy Cabooses!] Tucker in a
two-dimensional caboose conjoined by an ensemble (including women with spinning parasols representing the wheels) — traversing the passerelle surrounding the orchestra pit at the climax of the number.
Returning to the Harmonia Gardens staircase for Dolly’s entrance in her white wedding dress in the Curtain Call.
Frank’s favorite Cornelius Hackl of all time in 1976 was his lifetime partner of 40 years Dan Schiff in photo with Bill Pierson as Barnaby
Dan played Rudolph at the Walnut in 2004. Dan played Beau opposite Christine Ebersole in MAME at Papermill and Nick Arnstein opposite Laurie Beechman in FUNNY GIRL in Sacramento. Mame was 1999; Funny Girl was 1992. Also Georges in LaCage with Jamie Torcellini at Walnut in 2000.
To sum up, every production of Hello, Dolly that Frank has been involved in have all been joyous experiences. It is an extremely happy show. Frank is very fond of Thornton Wilder’s The Matchmaker which is so “up tempo.” Many years ago, Frank directed a production of Matchmaker in a high school in Maryland. He just loves the piece. In The Matchmaker, the final speech is given by Barnaby Tucker. It is a short monologue about adventure. “I hope you all have great adventures in your life.
It is so upbeat. It talks about enjoying life every day which is inherent in Cornelius’ monologue in the courtroom. The monologue written by Wilder for the final moments of The Matchmaker is, unfortunately, excluded in Hello, Dolly.
BARNABY: Oh, I think it’s about…. I think it’s about adventure. The test of an adventure is that when you’re in the middle of it, you say to yourself, ” Oh, now I’ve got myself into an awful mess; I wish I were sitting quietly at home.” And the sign that something’s wrong with you is when you sit quietly at home wishing you were out having lots of adventure. What we would like for you is that you have just the right amount of sitting quietly at home and just the right amount of –adventure! So that now we all want to thank you for coming tonight, and we all hope that in your lives you have just the right amount of –adventure! THE CURTAIN FALLS