By Hannah Cruz
The Norman Transcript
A staircase. A red dress. And a sassy matchmaker.
These are the makings of the 1964 Broadway classic “Hello, Dolly!,” that’s playing out on stage at The Sooner Theatre this weekend.
Jennifer Baker, Sooner Theatre executive director, is marking 10 years with the theater by starring as the production’s leading lady. Joining the likes of Carol Channing, Ginger Rogers and Barbra Streisand playing the infamous Dolly, Baker said she is honored to participate in the “Hello, Dolly!” legacy.
With the musical quickly approaching its 50th anniversary, Baker said she is excited to share the beloved story.
“I just love introducing the classics,” Baker said. “We do so many contemporary shows these days it’s just nice to have a classic back in the mix that everyone knows and can hum along with. It’s nice for the audience to have a classic.”
The story takes audiences on a whirlwind race around New York at the turn of the 20th century as they follow the adventures of America’s most beloved matchmaker, Dolly.
Full of memorable songs by Jerry Herman like “Put On Your Sunday Clothes,” “Hello, Dolly!,” “It Only Takes a Moment” and “So Long, Dearie,” director Matthew Sipress said the show has something for everyone.
“Little kids will love all the farce stuff and all the door slamming and the dancing and the pretty costumes,” he said. “People out on a date will like all the romance. And then there’s the comedy.”
Sipress said the theater’s production will include the choreography from the 1964 original. As a former member of several professional and touring companies of “Hello, Dolly!,” including the 1995 Broadway revival starring Carol Channing, Sipress has a unique perspective on the matter.
“As a director and choreographer I’m passing along history: This historical, iconic choreography,” he said. “I’m doing the original. I’m doing Gower Champion’s original stuff that you saw on stage in 1964.”
Baker said the Sooner Theatre’s nod to the original will be a walk down memory lane for many theatergoers.
“There’s going to be people sitting here who aren’t going to be able to help but look back and think, ‘Oh, I remember when I first saw ‘Hello, Dolly!’ It was at the movie. Oh, no, I saw it in this little theater in Texas.’ Everyone for the most part, for our older patrons, they get to think back and be nostalgic and think, ‘Where did I first see it?’”
Sipress and Baker can’t help but reminisce themselves.
“Having done the show with Carol Channing, I was 23 when I did it with Carol, and let me tell you to stand on the stage in the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre in New York City and you’re standing at the bottom of the stairs and there’s Carol Channing at the top — iconic,” Sipress said. “The iconic staircase, the iconic red dress and the woman is in it. I had to stop and think for a second.”
“I get emotional every time the music starts I can barely even sing ‘Hello, Harry. Hello, Louie’ because I’m always about to cry,” Baker said. “That for me is it, too.”
Baker is joined on the stage by local favorites Mandy Jiran, Mat Govich, Michael Gibbons, Cassie Blacksten, MacKay Whalen, Preston Taylor, Ryan Blagg, David Hopper and Shirley Franklin. The cast includes over 30 community members, professional actors and students. Music Director for the show is Jason Grife.
“Hello, Dolly!” showtimes are 8 p.m. April 12, 8 p.m. April 13 and 2 p.m. April 14 at the Sooner Theatre, 101 E. Main St.
Tickets are on sale now and can be purchased online at soonertheatre.com, by phone at 405-321-9600 or in person 10 a.m. to noon and 2-5 p.m. Friday at the box office, 101 E. Main St. Tickets range from $18-$23, with a special $15 rate for children 12 and under. Group discounts are available for groups of 10 or more.
Student Rush: College and high school students who show their valid school ID at the box office within one hour of showtime can purchase tickets at 50 percent of the regular price for that evening’s performance. Student Rush tickets cannot be purchased in advance.
For more information on upcoming shows, concert, events and auditions at The Sooner Theatre, visit soonertheatre.com.
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