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Sally Struthers struts comic timing in Dolly!

By Eric E. Harrison

This article was published January 15, 2014 at 2:21 a.m.

Forty years of doing comedy has given Sally Struthers surefire comic timing that she struts, along with a lot of other stuff, in Big League Productions Inc.’s touring version of Hello, Dolly!, which opened Tuesday night at Little Rock’s Robinson Center Music Hall.

Struthers, in the title role, dominates every scene she’s in (she doesn’t even have to steal them; they’re handed to her on a silver salver) with a great backing cast of young supporting actors, singers and dancers.

It all helped me enjoy the performance, but none of it helped me warm up to the show (music and lyrics by Jerry Herman; book by Michael Stewart, based on Thornton Wilder’s play The Matchmaker).

Meddling 1890s matchmaker Dolly Gallagher Levi, hired to find a a bride for ornery Yonkers, N.Y., “half-a-millionaire” Horace Vandergelder (Tony Triano), “subtly” introduces herself into the mix. Meanwhile, she manages to hook up Vandergelder’s daughter, Ermengarde (Hilary Fingerman), with penniless artist Ambrose Kemper (Brad Frenette) and his callow employees, Cornelius Hackl (Matt Wolfe) and Barnaby Tucker (Lucas Fedele), with widowed milliner Irene Molloy (Lauren Blackman) and her pert assistant, Minnie (Haller Morse).

Wolfe gives his whole performance at the top of his fine tenor voice (in fact, I don’t recall hearing even a baritone in the entire cast). Fingerman does a fine job making weepy, whiny, mob-capped Ermengarde the most annoying character I expect to see on stage this year. The athletic “Waiters’ Gallop” production number brings down the house.

Struthers and her cast-mates will greet Dolly again, under the auspices of Celebrity Attractions, at 7:30 p.m. today and Thursday at Robinson, West Markham Street and Broadway. Ticket information is available by calling (501) 244-8800 or (800) 982- 2787 or online at Ticketmaster.com or CelebrityAttractions.com.

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