Hello, Dolly!Say hello to Hello, Dolly!, an old warhorse finding new life at Boulder's Dinner Theatre. The musical tells the story of a meddlesome widow, Dolly Levi, who makes a living connecting people. Ostensibly trying to find a wife for half-millionaire feed-store owner Horace Vandergelder, she's actually plotting to snare him for herself. First, though, she has to not only overcome his doubts, but free herself from the memory of her beloved dead husband, Ephraim. The plot — absurd, episodic, dated in parts — is really only a pretext for songs, dances and comic scenes, but the dialogue still has snap, and the songs are seductive. "It Takes a Woman" is a funny sendup of '50s marital expectations: "It takes a woman all powdered and pink/To joyously clean out the drain in the sink/And it takes an angel with long golden lashes/And soft Dresden fingers for dumping the ashes"; "Put on Your Sunday Clothes" is one of those joyous showstoppers that get your heart racing; "Dancing" starts as a comic dance lesson and ends with a horde of people swirling exhilaratingly across the stage; and "Before the Parade Passes By" is not only exhilarating, but touching, too. It's hard to imagine a more perfect Dolly than Alicia Dunfee, who imbues the role with warmth and charm, sings movingly, and brings depth and dignity to her soliloquies with her dead husband. Another terrific performance comes from Tracy Warren, who has a pure, beautifully modulated singing voice and loads of appeal as hatmaker Irene Malloy. The direction and choreography (the latter by Dunfee and Matthew D. Peters) are clean and tight. They meld together the disparate levels of talent on stage and give the performers a solid base from which to cut loose and enjoy themselves. Which they do — filling us with pleasure in the process. Presented by Boulder's Dinner Theatre through February 26, 5501 Arapahoe Avenue, Boulder, 303-449-6000, www.bouldersdinnertheatre.com. Reviewed December 2.
The Diviners. Although written in 1980, this play feels like a period piece, and not just because it's set in the Depression. The central character is a young boy, Buddy Layman, brain-damaged by a near-drowning at the age of four during which his mother died. Since then, he has been so terrified of water that he refuses to allow his father to wash him. But paradoxically, he also has a miraculous ability to predict rain and to locate water sources for his parched, fictitious town. Into this setting comes C.C. Showers (surely no pun intended?), a preacher who's abandoned his mission and is seeking manual work. Showers forms an understanding bond with the boy. This religion-ridden town has been without a church for a while, and several of the women are wildly excited when they realize who Showers is. Despite his protestations that he no longer has faith, they insist on seeing almost every move he makes as evidence of a divine mission. There are some good scenes in The Diviners, and some liberating moments of humor — but there is also an awful lot that feels derivative. Showers wrestles with Buddy as Anne Sullivan did with Helen Keller in The Miracle Worker. There are persistent echoes of Our Town, and none of the characters is textured or real. While lapsed faith can be a fascinating topic, Showers's explanation of why he left his vocation is anti-climactic. And Buddy's insistence on constantly speaking of himself in the third person gets irritating fast. The performances of the PHAMALY actors are impressive nonetheless, and the climactic final scene is so beautifully acted and staged that it almost redeems the entire enterprise. Presented by PHAMALY through January 30, Aurora Fox Arts Center, 9900 East Colfax Avenue, Aurora, 303-575-0005, www.phamaly.org. Reviewed January 20.