Jennie Eisenhower graduated from Northwestern University in 2000 and moved straight to New York to pursue musical theatre. She grew up in the Philadelphia suburbs and her family was still there, so she was constantly auditioning for and working in the Philly theatre scene despite her New York address. After some Off Broadway work and adventures at regional theatres across the country, she settled on Philadelphia as her artistic home, relocating there permanently in 2008. Jennie has won 2 Barrymore Awards (Philadelphia's Tony equivalent), and has been nominated 6 additional times. In addition to performing onstage, she has also directed, appeared in film and television and taught at Temple University. It has been quite a fulfilling career thus far.
Jennie's first time seeing Dolly was at the Media Theatre - Andrea McArdle starred. According to Jennie, it was such a fun production and really turned her on to the role and the show. Then she revisited Barbra Streisand's iconic performance in the film. She also studied Carol Channing's lovable, wacky and wonderful work as Dolly in order to portray her for a production of Forbidden Broadway, and is so inspired by her joy and spontaneity in the role.
Jennie is inspired by so many women in musical theatre. She loves Carolee Carmello and just revisited the OBC recording of her Lucille Frank in “Parade.” 'It was so brilliant'. And Cynthia Erivo's performance of “I’m Here” lives in her head rent free forever more. She can’t wait to see her in something new.
They went into rehearsals for this production with an elevated sense of gratitude. For many members of the company it was their first show back since Covid. They had all been forever changed by the pandemic and there was a collective shift in the air - they all felt very lucky to be there, AND doing "Hello, Dolly," to boot! The show is so full of joy and is truly about embracing the moment, being open to love and adventure, and leading with your heart at every turn. Jennie believes they all took these ideas to heart and the show radiated warmth because of it.
Jennie definitely explored the dichotomy between the person Dolly shows to the world and the private Dolly that she only shares with Ephram. Dolly is in full armor at the top of the show - witty, charming and in complete control to anyone watching - yet deep down she is struggling with grief at the loss of her true partner and living "hand to mouth." Jennie played Dolly not just as a delightful caricature, but as a real person plotting and scheming and really fighting for her life. The stakes are high.
As mentioned above, Jennie's first LIVE Dolly was Andrea McArdle. She has seen Streisand in the movie and clips of Carol Channing. She Would have loved to have seen Ethel Merman, Carol Channing, Pearl Bailey and Carolee Carmello, She has had the opportunity to share the stage with Jacquelyn Piro Donovan and Leslie Becker during her career, both of whom are amazing actors and people - and she would have LOVED to have seen their renditions of Dolly as well.
Jennie embarked on knowing her dialogue two months prior to rehearsals. "Thank goodness I took the time to do that because I imagine it would have been very stressful if I had my lines alluding me on top of everything else! Another challenge- my first act top (coat? Jacket?) was so heavy it was like weight lifting for an hour and a half. I would leave the stage at intermission drenched in sweat! But I kept reminding myself that most likely Dolly would have had to contend with heavy, inflexible clothing in the late 1800's. The restrictiveness and unwieldiness of the garment was ultimately probably helpful in keeping me in character."
I just love this role and this show so much. And to have had the chance to play it in such an intimate space with a group of the most amazing humans you could ever dream up, plus an incredible director, was beyond a dream come true. I'm grateful to Carol for playing Dolly until the age of 75. It gives a broad like me hope that this may not be the last time I get to take on this part.
- Jennie Eisenhower
Come one with one question that you would ask someone else playing Dolly that I did not ask you!
Do you think Dolly eventually falls in love with Horace, truly? Or does he remain a means to an end for her? (PS, I think she does fall in love! Maybe in a more platonic sense than with Ephram, but there is definitely feeling and care between Horace and Dolly by the end of the show... in my opinion!)