Gavan Pamer is a director, choreographer, musical director, stage manager and actor and received his musical theatre training at Point Park University. He was Founding Artistic Director of Lincoln Park Performing Arts Center and Director of Theatre and Dance for Lincoln Park Performing Arts Charter School located in Midland, PA. He served as Artistic Director at Pittsburgh Musical Theater from 2001-2004 and was Associate Director/Choreographer for the national tours of The Goodbye Girl and Hello, Dolly!
He opened Pittsburgh CLO’s Greer Cabaret as Production Stage Manager for the original run of Forever Plaid and returned for My Way (Choreographer) and Xanadu (PSM). As a performer he toured nationally in CATS (Mungojerrie), 42nd Street and A Chorus Line and has performed with numerous theaters across the country including Pittsburgh CLO, Pittsburgh Public Theater, Pittsburgh Playhouse Rep. Company, TheatreVirginia, Geva Theatre, Tennessee Rep., St. Louis Rep., Cincinnati Playhouse, Westport Country Playhouse, Ogunquit Playhouse, Gateway Playhouse and Cape Playhouse.
Gavan’s Temple Theatre credits include The Last 5 Years (Musical Director), Hoagy Carmichael’s Stardust Road (Musical Director), Oliver! (Fagin), Big River (Director/Choreographer), 1776 (John Adams), Beauty and the Beast (Cogsworth/Choreographer), Anything Goes (Director/Choreographer) and The Addams Family (Uncle Fester). Other notable performances include A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum (Hysterium), Man of La Mancha (Padre), Damn Yankees (Van Buren), Evita (Che), Chicago (Mary Sunshine), Blood Brothers (Mickey), Jesus Christ Superstar (Simon/Pilate), George M! (George Cohan), West Side Story, (Tony), Gypsy (Tulsa), Big River (Huck) and Peter Pan (Peter). Gavan was co-founder of LPPAC’s Henry Mancini Arts Academy, and served on the faculty of PMT's Studio G and the Young Performers Institute, Carnegie Mellon University and Point Park University instructing students in dance, acting and musical theatre. He is a resident of Sanford, NC and the Director of Marketing and Development for Temple Theatre.
Please tell me about your production of Hello, Dolly! Starring Victoria Clark
I was Stanley in the 2004 Pittsburgh CLO production of Hello, Dolly! with Victoria. It was a great artistic staff Glenn Casale (Director), Dan Mojica (Choreographer), Tom Helm (Musical Director), with Lighting by Andrew David Ostrowski. A great cast as well: Steve Vinovcich (Vandergelder), Larry Raben (Cornelius), Jacquelyn Piro (Irene), Michael McGurk (Barnaby), Katie Adams (Minnie), Jeff Howell (Rudolph) with many ensemble members who went on to big Broadway careers including Nick Adams, Kevin Burrows, Courtney (Mazza) Lopez, Pilar Millhollen, Zachary Prince and Eric Santagata. Vicky was truly embraced Dolly with a warmth and sense of humor and truly made the role uniquely hers. She was a class act in every aspect on and off stage. It was a short rehearsal process and run but the collective team with Glenn at the controls with Vicky as his muse were a winning combination. It was a pleasure to be a part of that company.
I know that you directed Lenora Nemetz . What was your approach to this production?
I had worked on the 2000 National tour as choreographer and associate director and had done a couple other productions assisting Bob Durkin. This was my first time at the helm of the show. I am a traditionalist at heart and really wanted to let the brilliance of the show speak for itself. I added my own touch to the staging but really stayed true to what is so wonderful about the piece. Lenora was just the perfect Dolly at the right time! She is a Pittsburgh icon and has always been the hometown favorite and was the Dolly that audiences wanted to see.
What did Lenora bring to the role that made her Dolly unique?
Lenora being a dancer brought a very unique physicality to the role. In addition to that she is a great actress and comedian. She brought and honesty and heart to Dolly's monologues and made the big production numbers soar! She was a master at knowing how to embrace each moment whether it was musical, movement or moment. It's role like Dolly that truly show an actress' skill and it was the perfect vehicle for Lenora to shine. Everyone loved her in many other roles, Charity, Velma Kelly, Reno Sweeney, Princess Puffer, but Dolly was where she got to display everything and she embraced the audience every night and they loved every moment. She was a master in all aspects.
How did Hello, Dolly happen for you the first time?
Surprisingly enough, I had been offered roles in Dolly numerous times but never had the chance to be in it! The Pittsburgh CLO 2004 production was the first time I had appeared in the show. I remember seeing a high school production my sister was involved with in the early 80's. I had choreographed probably 4 different high school productions and then the show passed me by as a professional actor until I had the opportunity to assist Bob Durkin and choreograph the 2000 National Tour.
Describe the working relationship with your directors?
I guess I'll field this from the other perspective. My biggest concern with each production that I had worked on as a choreographer or director was making sure that each dolly felt comfortable in her approach to the character. Each different actress brought something unique and different to the role, a different perspective. They were all at different points in their lives and careers and seeing that they could maneuver through the journey so they could live in each moment was very important. Some Dolly's aren't dancers at all and are afraid of choreography. Others approach every moment organically. Meeting each actress at their approach to help them launch into their story is truly what brings the character to life. And they were all different and unique yet it was the same text and music (but DEFINITELY different keys they sang in! Not ONE Dolly sings in the same key!)
Have you seen other productions of Dolly? Describe your feelings with each
I have had the pleasure of seeing MANY productions of Dolly. It truly is one of my favorite musicals. What I've been most impressed with is no matter at what level the production is, the craftsmanship of the book and score always hold up and sometimes save the production. That can't be said for every musical or play.
Did you see Carol Channing as Dolly? If so, your thoughts.
I was fortunate to see Carol Channing in the 1995 Broadway run of the show. It was truly MAGICAL! It was so great seeing a musical theatre legend perform the role they originated. She was masterful in her execution. For a traditionalist like myself, it was so great getting to witness theatre history. She knew every nuance of Dolly and enjoyed every moment and invited us into her world of Dolly. It was also fun getting to see many of my friends get to live in that moment onstage with her. It's one of many theatricals experiences I will always treasure.
What are your thoughts on working with Victoria Clark?
Victoria was a delight to work with. She is professionalism personified and a down to earth sweet and kind human being. She is a master of her craft and is so generous to work with onstage. Many younger performers could learn a lot about listening and responding from Victoria. She really is giving, even if it's in the middle of a musical number telling Stanley he lost weight, she was always generous in sharing the spotlight. Truly a wonderful collaborator and actress.
If you were to ask me to name one show to define what is meant by the term “Broadway musical comedy,” I would name Hello Dolly. Do you agree with that? Please elaborate
I completely agree! It's a brilliant script and incredible score and with the right actress (and sometimes even the wrong actress) the show soars. It has a story that many can identify with or characters they can identify with. Cornelius says it best: "Isn't the world full of wonderful things?" and Dolly is that. A wonderful distraction from the outside world and a look into what everyone searches for, love in the pure sense of the word.
Was Lenora Nemetz as personable and funny offstage as she was onstage?
Lenora has been a friend of mine for many years. She is a very warm and generous person and also cares very much about her craft. She has so much to give and loves teaching as much as performing. She is a masterclass in performance and is wonderful to work with. I tend to be protective of Lenora as we live so close to each other for many years. I love her dearly and was fortunate to have her as my Dolly. She made my work better.
Was Dolly ever a dream show for you?
That's always a difficult question for me. I am a lover of musical theatre and embrace any opportunity with any show I get to work on. I've always loved Hello, Dolly! and was so honored to be asked to be a part of the National Tour. It was exciting getting to explore a new world after it had been in the public consciousness for so long and I've been very fortunate to add my stamp to the show. It is now a dream show for me as I look back on the many wonderful times I've had with the show.
If you could go back, with the knowledge you have now, what would you do differently?
Well, fortunately, I get to explore the show again with a new Dolly this coming year. Every production is different, different theatre size, different cast, different Dolly, different abilities. I just always look to find the magic each new cast can bring to the table and showcase those abilities. It's just fortunate to have such a great vehicle in which to display them. I feel the same way I do about the other musical theatre masterpieces I get to set, it's getting to spread the joy of Dolly to a new generation. And hopefully they will fall in love with what I've been in love with for so long.
What has changed in your perception of Dolly since doing it?
The infinite possibilities in storytelling. Yes, it's a story about Dolly, but everyone is changed by her "hand" and finding how to incorporate everyone into that is the challenge.
Did you continue to tweak after the show opens?
ALWAYS! Visiting the cast back on the road and seeing it in front of an audience and hearing their reaction, you find new interpretations of line readings or inflections. Theatre is an ever changing art form and every audience is different, but it's the fun in figuring out how to keep the show fresh and alive with an ever-changing audience. That's what is so masterful about the ladies who play Dolly, knowing how to play to every audience and managing that unknown. It's different every night and it's a new journey every night. But that goes for every piece of theatre. But Dolly has a more intimate relationship with the audience than other shows.
Your thoughts on what Jeff Howell brought to Horace Vandergelder
Jeff is also a dear friend of mine. My first professional job was with Jeff in a production of 42nd Street. He's been a mentor and friend for a very long time. Jeff is the consummate professional who never takes anything too seriously. He has such a great balance about life and career and always brings so much to the table. He's played both Horace and then Rudolph in the Pittsburgh CLO production. His Horace was gruff, yet funny with a true care about his nieces' well being. Then his turn as Rudolph was almost Victor Borge-esque in his wackiness. He's one of the funniest and kind people I know. He also looks great in Horace's purple tux, and few men can pull that off!
What about the story resonates with you?
I stated this earlier, Cornelius' words: "Isn't the world full of wonderful things?" Dolly knows how to find the "wonderful" in everyone. She brings out the best in everyone, and I think the story does that as well.
What one thing do you think you have learned from your involvement with doing Dolly that you have taken forward in your career
What major influence do you think Dolly has on audiences? Find the good in everything. Even when life knocks you down, re-join the human race. It's a lot better living than dwelling on the past.
There's so much positivity that resonates with Dolly! It's hard not letting that affect you when seeing the show. Embrace the joy.
Worst experience (if any with the show)
For the 2000 tour of the show, we used the Carol Channing set and costumes. They were magnificent and in excellent condition. Our wardrobe supervisor, Gail Baldoni, was amazing at the choices of costumes she put together for our cast. We had a smaller cast than usual. We used the costumes on the tour and then we used them right after the tour closed for a production at WVPT in WV. For my PMT production in 2002 that spring, we got the same set and costumes. Well, we opened the gondolas and trucks and half the set was gone along with most of the costumes. So in a week's time, we had to find and build the remaining sets and costumes including renting all of Lenora's costumes and ALL of "Sunday Clothes" for the ensemble. No one knows where the costumes and sets went. They were rented to another theatre between the WVPT run and ours. THAT was the worst experience. When CLO did the show in 2004 they rented the same sets. I had to remind the lighting designer, Andy Ostrowski about our PMT production. CLO had to do the same thing and create costumes and sets for what was missing.
Your thoughts on other Dolly Levis(s) that you have seen.
It's hard to chose a favorite. I think I tend to lean toward Lenora as my favorite because of our experience together. They're all unique in their own ways.
Obviously, Victoria Clark was a well known and loved star, please tell us about tailoring the show for her.
At Pittsburgh CLO is always a tough nut to crack as the show is rehearsed and staged in 7 days! 7 days of rehearsal, and then you're in front of an audience. Glenn Casale is a wonderful director and always focuses on everyone having lives beyond the words on the page. And Tom Helm is a master as scoring and conducting. Dan Mojica, rest his beautiful soul, was so caring in his choreography. They truly protected Vicky and gave her every chance to succeed in every aspect of her portrayal and they did it so masterfully in a very short process. That really had to do with their preparation. All of them came in ready to create a unique show built around Vicky. She, in turn, had her own approach which added to the mix. That's what I love about that particular artistic staff, I've had the pleasure of doing a few shows with them, they approach every show as a new project. They're not just regurgitating something they did somewhere else. And they did it in 7 days! I have to keep bringing that up.
Your thoughts on your Cornelius Hackls...Who they are and what they brought to the riole
Tom Rocco was Cornelius in the production I directed. I've known Tom since I was a freshman in college and he was a senior at Point Park University then College. Tom was in the Broadway production of TOMMY and has worked extensively across the country at numerous theatres. He's also a MAC award winner for his show My Big Fat Proposition 8 Wedding. Again, I've been really fortunate to know and work with so many talented people who have become my friends. Tom is a wonderful comedic actor. I first saw him in the Pittsburgh premiere of Little Shop of Horrors as Seymour. He's one of the funniest men I know and so heartwarming in his portrayal of Cornelius. The combination of he, Lenora, Jeff, Mark, Sharon and Angela was lightening in a bottle. They were all the right people at the right time. And Tom was that genuine combination of funny, honest, quirky, lovable wide-eyed bewildered human being that rounded out a remarkable group. Tom is also a Pittsburgher and has a following that was there rooting for Cornelius as much as they rooted for Lenora's Dolly.
Have you ever seen a Dolly that missed the mark?
Eh... maybe watching a high school girl who hasn't lived enough life to make it truly believable, but there is a lot of joy in watching high school theatre, so I will have to say I haven't seen a Dolly who has missed the mark.
Your thoughts on Jerry Herman’s score?
It's a masterpiece! 'Nuff said.
Describe the first time you heard the score (if you can)
My grandfather loved building stereo systems and had a HUGE album collection. I'm sure my first introduction to the Dolly score was Louis Armstrong's version of Hello, Dolly! I was first introduced to the entire Dolly score through the movie. I was a BIG fan of Gene Kelly's growing up and was fascinated that he directed the movie. I also collected musical theatre albums so acquiring every Dolly album was a quest and I was blown away by the Mary Martin recording. That's really my favorite recording of the show. I just love the tempos and arrangements. To this day, I still love the fanfare at the beginning of the Overture on every album.
We just got laid off from the theatre yesterday, so I had some extra time to answer your questions. We hopefully will be back to operations here in NC soon. We're a small but mighty staff and we do quality theatre. I'll keep you posted about our upcoming production of Hello, Dolly! Let me know if there is anything else you need. I'll see if I can find some pics of Victoria Clark in the show. Thanks for including me in your Dolly history. I truly enjoy your website and love the care and time you've taken in preserving such a well-loved musical. Thank you!
Here's an article from my production with Lenora. I wish the review was still available.
A pic of Victoria Clark in CLO's production. I'm second from left.