Left to right: David Morgan (Ambrose Kemper), Isaac Cosand (Barnaby Tucker) and Meghan McCandless (Dolly) perform in Teen Musical Theater of Oregon's production of 'Hello, Dolly!' - Photo by Bob Pennell

Broadway's favorite matchmaker is back

If you're planning to attend the Teen Musical Theater of Oregon production "Hello, Dolly!," bring a date — or Dolly Gallagher Levi is sure to find you one.

The leading character, played by Meghan McCandless, will embrace her famously strong-willed matchmaker persona in the lively romantic comedy. Craterian Performances, in collaboration with TMTO and St. Mary's High School, will present a professionally staged production of the Tony Award-winning, Broadway musical. Shows are planned for 7:30 p.m. Thursday and Friday, March 3 and 4, and 3 p.m. Saturday, March 5, at the Craterian Ginger Rogers Theater, 23 S. Central Ave., Medford.

Because TMTO was in dire need of a rehearsal space, and St. Mary's was desperately clinging to its dissolving theater program, the two institutions decided on a reciprocal partnership. TMTO began rehearsing in St. Mary's multipurpose room, and nearly two dozen St. Mary's students joined 11 students from area schools for TMTO's spring show.

Based on Michael Stewart's book, "Hello, Dolly!" evolved from Thornton Wilder's 1938 farce "The Merchant of Yonkers," which was revised and titled "The Matchmaker" in 1955.

Set in the 1890s, the play centers around Dolly, a brassy, young widow who makes it her life's ambition to make good, romantic matches among her acquaintances.

"She meets this guy in Yonkers, New York, Horace Vandergelder, and she goes to match him up in New York City," says former Camelot Theatre producing director Doug Warner, who is directing the TMTO show.

However, Dolly becomes attracted to this "half-a-millionare" and, instead, decides to cunningly snare him for herself.

"Dolly is saucy," says Warner. "She lets Horace believe he's in charge, but she's very much in charge the whole time."

A secondary plot unfolds as Horace's clerks Cornelius Hackl and Barnaby Tucker go to New York City in their boss' absence to meet girls and have a good time. Under these circumstances, Cornelius is paired (with Dolly's help, of course) with young widow Irene Molloy, and Barnaby hooks up with Minnie Fay, Irene's shop assistant.

"They supply all the comic relief, and they become romantically involved," says Warner.

McCandless also "met her match" in the role of Dolly.

"She (McCandless) is a lot like Dolly in the sense that she is clever and witty ... and she's real likable, and Dolly is a really likable person," says Warner.

McCandless, a 17-year-old St. Mary's student, collaborated on choreography with help from her older sister, a junior at Northwestern University in Illinois. Cailey McCandless choreographed the musical numbers and communicated the dances through Skype to Meghan McCandless, who taught them to the rest of the cast.

The show features about 14 popular songs from the original score, including "Hello, Dolly!," "Dancing," "Put on Your Sunday Clothes" and "It Takes a Woman." John Taylor, artistic and musical director of TMTO, created digital orchestrations for each song.

The 35-youth cast, ranging from 12 to 19 years old, includes Andrew King as Horace, Adam Lohman as Cornelius, Lindsay McCreedy as Irene, Kelsey Tidball as Minnie and Isaac Cosand as Barnaby.

Sets for railway stations, the feed store, hat shop, courtroom and the famous Harmonia Gardens Restaurant were designed by Southern Oregon University student Alex Meyer. Seamstress Sue Quackenbush assembled more than 100 extravagant, Victorian costumes, including about 50 hats.

Tickets cost $18, $9 for ages 18 and younger, and are available at the Craterian box office, by calling 541-779-3000 or online at www.craterian.org for information.

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