Kevin P. Hill: Another Director's Perspective on Hello, Dolly!
Back in the late 1980's, Kevin P. Hill had the pleasure of working at the Waltham Reagle Players (a community theatre at the time). He was sent to a man's house in Westchester NY, he was an original dancer in the production with Carol (back in 1964) he taught a colleague of Kevin and him the choreography in his living room for the weekend, so they could go back and teach the show to the Reagle Player locals. That was also an amazing experience. That was Kevin’s first experience with the show. Who knew he would still have this connection with the show?
|Leslie Uggams, Kevin, Graham Pratt (Leslie's husband)|
Kevin would go on to be part of Carol Channing's last tour in 1995. He auditioned for the revival in 1994 and unfortunately, did not get cast. After the show closed on Broadway, his dear friend Randy Slovacek became choreographer and took out the tour again with Lee Roy Reams as director. Randy asked Kevin to audition and he was fortunate enough to get cast. That tour ran over six months.
Other than productions Kevin has actively been involved in, he has only seen community theater productions.
Kevin loves Carol Channing and can honestly say that performing with Carol was the highlight of his career. At the same time of being cast in Dolly, he was cast in CATS over in Germany. CATS was going to be a long contract and he chose to do Hello Dolly! for the mere fact that he would be able to perform with Carol. He remembers Carol being very generous...renting a movie theatre for the cast to watch the latest movie, getting behind the counter dishing out popcorn. He remembers Carol coming to coach on the airplane and sitting on his lap. She is and will always be a special woman to him.
Jay Garner, who played Horace Vandergelder is just as special to Kevin. He could make you laugh with just a facial expression. He was very personable with a heart of gold.
|Theater By The Sea (2010)|
Kevin says he is not sure that there was anything not to like. Maybe the fact that his leg of the tour did not run longer....Oh....and being from Boston, his family was making a trip out to CT to see the show. They rented a bus. About 90 people were coming to see him perform when the bus broke down on the highway. Luckily someone on the bus had a son who was a CT state trooper, who drove to the bus, picked up Kevin’s immediate family and got them to the theatre by Sunday Clothes. Unfortunately, the rest of the people didn't make it until Act Two.
|Theater By The Sea|
Kevin loved everything about it. The cast, the costumes, the set, learning the original choreography. It will be a memory that he will always cherish.
There are Quite a few best moments that Kevin cherishes.....
He was featured in the show as part of the"High Hat Trio." A section in the Dancing number where one man dances a section with two woman (and he wears a top hat). He still get chills every time he hears that music.
Meeting Jerry Herman was also an experience he will never forget.
And from that experience with Hello Dolly and Carol Channing, Randy and Lee Roy invited him to work on a few other productions. He was Dance Captain in the version with Michele Lee. And assistant choreographer in the version with Leslie Uggams.
Kevin was also asked to Direct and Choreograph the show with Tony award winner Cady Huffman. Talk about an amazing Dolly...Cady has the heart, the spunk and the voice!!
The eating scene is certainly a tough one. Other than Carol, Kevin doesn’t know any Dolly who hasn't had trouble with it. It is so precise and the comedy has got to be spot on. It certainly takes a lot of attention and rehearsal time. When directing Cady in the show, Kevin didn't want her to be a carbon copy of every Dolly so, they talked it through, came up with some comedy bits that worked for her as a person and things that she felt comfortable doing. It ended up being hilarious.
Kevin loved The Theater By The Sea production starring Cady Huffman in 2010. Kevin also directed it!!!
It worked very well in the space and was an intimate production. He think it is best said by this reviewer....
"Dolly is played to perfection by Tony Award- winning actress Cady Huffman, who smoothes Dolly’s rough edges with equal amounts of humor and feminine charm. (Review below)
|Cady Huffman and cast|
Their closing night was special. Kevin did not want to leave the production. Theatre by the Sea has a restaurant attached to the theatre and that's where it was held. Bill Hanney the owner is a wonderful man and pays attention to detail and his employees. Kevin’s family attended and it was a special evening all around. Not to mention his Dad is a huge Cady Huffman fan from the Iron Chefepisodes.
Kevin thinks he works very well as a Director when Hello Dolly is concerned. He has the heart and the passion for the production and everyone is different because every Dolly is different. As a director the most important thing he can do is tell the story of Dolly and show her vulnerability. She is a complex character and has so many sides to her. But making her real is so important. Just be true to the heart of the story.
|Evan Price (as Ambrose) and Cady Huffman|
Besides Gower Champion's choreography, Kevin takes the back stories. Randy had told the ensemble once that Dolly has touched everyone's life. She may have introduced you to your husband/wife, danced at your wedding, offered some type of service to you that bonded you for life. That's what Kevin brings...He is the type of director that wants everyone to have a story. Find a connection with your Dolly.
Cady Huffman’s individual strengths and what she brought to the show: passion, strength, leadership, talent, an amazing personality, patience......and that's what she brought to the show as well.
Cady is also a dancer. Kevin added her more to the choreography in the Dancing number. And it told more of a story...Dolly spreading her magic and having people connect thru the dance.
Kevin did direct the show once and it wasn't a pleasant experience. The show ended up being terrific, but getting there was rough. The artistic director was also the musical director and had a very different version of the show. He wanted it to be camped up....that's not Kevin’s version. So, it was a head-banging process. The space was incredibly small with only four dancers out of the six ensemble people. Not enough to do the show. And, of course, this theatre will remain nameless 🙂
It was not well received by critics and sadly it had nothing to do about the show.....the reviews just mentioned it was a dated show and couldn't keep their interest with the farce comedy. They were young reviewers who didn't understand this classic.
|Al Bundonis as Horace with Cady|
Kevin’s thoughts on Jerry Herman:
Creative, experienced, thoughtful, passionate. Kevin loves every one of his musicals. Kevin remembers being invited to his house with the cast when performing with Carol. That is also a day he will never forget, humbled.
The biggest change that Kevin has seen in this business since he began is that it's all about spectacle now...no one seems to just tell a story anymore. It's about how much money can be put into the shows. The classics seem to be fading which makes him sad.
|JASON OSTROWSKi (Cornelius) and cast|
Kevin opened a dance studio right outside of the Boston Area. www.HillStudiosLLC.com He has his hands in many pots....the studio, creating his own musicals now, hoping to have his own company in Boston as well, concentrating on bringing the classics back.
Kevin doesn't think he has ever been to one of his closing nights. He sometimes doesn't like to see what a show has turned in to. In regional theatre Some actors like to take liberties with their character and not stay true to the direction. So, it's best for him to see opening and leave with a good memory.
Directed and choreographed by
Kevin P. Hill
Theatre By The Sea
Cards Pond Road, Matunuck
BY DAVE CHRISTNER, Mercury Paper
“Hello, Dolly” is one of those classic Broadway musicals that just keeps getting better with time. And Theatre By The Sea’s current production does nothing to diminish its startling success. The show doesn’t age; on the contrary, it makes those of us who originally saw the show way back when feel youthful again, humming songs we know by heart and experiencing once again just how great an escape
musical theater can be from the daily pressures of living in a complex world.
Brilliant composers and lyricists like Jerry Herman sure have a way of making us feel good —
if only for a moment.
Michael Stewart’s book,
based on Thornton Wilder’sThe Matchmaker, chronicles a day in the life of Dolly Gallagher Levi, a widow
who struggles to make a living as, among other things, a marriage broker in Yonkers, N.Y., at the turn of the 20th century. Dolly is played to perfection
by Tony Award-winning actress Cady Huffman, who
smoothes Dolly’s rough edges with equal amounts of humor and feminine charm. Winner of a 2001 Tony for her role as Ulla in The Producers, Huffman’s
comic timing is superb, and her commanding voice
rocks the old barn to its foundation through a host of memorable songs.
Director and choreographer Kevin P. Hill brings a heady mix of the ridiculous and sublime to the choreography by infusing the dance numbers with a Charlie Chaplin brand of locomotion; this stylized
movement works exceedingly well in a high-energy restaurant scene where the headwaiter
and staff adorned in Costume Designer Lou Bird’s black-and-white uniforms flail about like the Keystone Cops.Musical director Bob Bray and lighting designer Aaron Meadow add to the fray with a lively score and helter-skelter flashes of light reminiscent of a 1920s silent movie.
Dolly, who admittedly “has always been a woman who arranges things,” has her hands full as she tries to
arrange marriages for a number of dissimilar clients and acquaintances including the wealthy widower Horace Vandergelder (Al Bundonis), widow Irene Molloy (Rebecca Barko), Vandergelder’s niece, Ermengarde (Amanda LaMotte), Cornelius Hackl (Jason Ostrowski) and Barnaby Tucker (Jake Bridges), and, of course, herself.
Bundonis plays Vandergelder with a perfect air of detached cynicism that fits a man looking for a housekeeperas much as a wife. His rendition
of It Takes a Woman is a real crowd pleaser. Ostgrowski and Bridges are brilliant as the Yonkers yokels
who toil endlessly in Vandergelder’s feed store until on a whim they follow Vandergelder and Dolly to the glittering streets of Manhattan and their lives change forever. These two actors are as adept at slapstick comedy as they are with dancing or with non-dancing in the number “Dancing,” where Dolly teaches them to dance.
Rebecca Barko delivers a haunting rendition of the beautiful Ribbons Down My Back as Irene contemplates
finding love after the loss of her husband; in the lovely duet It Only Takes a Moment, she and Ostrowski
give voice to the show’s underlying theme of finding true love.Kimberly V. Cox’s scenic design takes you right back to turn of the century New York and Bird’s costumes are nothing short of miraculous, filling
the stage with yards of fabric and scores of color and styles; the leads and ensemble go through countless scene and costume changes without a hitch.Hello, Dolly is more than just a show for the ages; it’s a show for all ages. So take the kids along to this madcap and moving spectacle of musical theater. And maybe the best
part is that you can say you saw Cady Huffman in the role of Dolly.
Dave Christner is Slocum, R.I.’s most obscure playwright
All photos courtesy, Kevin P. Hill