CULLMAN, Ala. – Cullman Community Theatre opened its summer production of “Hello, Dolly!” Friday evening at Cullman High School, a year after plans for the show were shelved by COVID. Guests had an opportunity to take in the Broadway classic about Dolly Gallagher Levi and her matchmaking adventures in 1890s New York. Shows continue today and Sunday.
Director Wayne Cook said that early challenges in securing space raised questions about the feasibility of the show, but strong support from the community brought it to fruition anyway.
“I wasn’t sure if it was a good idea, but so many people wanted to do it,” said Cook. “So many people were excited about it that we decided to proceed, and so we did. And it’s been a fast turn-around on a show. I mean, it’s probably the fastest that I’ve ever been involved in, as far as getting everything learned, getting everything built, getting everything done and ready for opening night. But it’s come together, and of course, I think it was because people were incredibly dedicated to get it done.
“I had a lot of really good board members that helped, our team of directors that helped us — if I started naming names, I’d have to name them all, because I don’t want to pass anybody up — but they’ve done a great job of taking on a responsibility and running with it. Don’t want to forget Cindy Pass and her huge contribution to this production. She has been the music director as well as heading up costuming.
“Noah Carpenter: he’s what we call our production director, which is something we instituted through our board, and it’s basically somebody who kind of helps us administratively on a lot of things that has to be done like marketing and the fundraising aspect — which is a huge part of community theater — raising money to do the show. We had a lot of success in that arena. We were able to secure a lot of resources to make it possible to do the show.
“And then I had people like Nick Shabel step up and was an assistant director. And I was gone to Disney; I was out, basically, for two weeks, pretty much, at the beginning of the process. They set in and learned the music and started blocking the show and learning the lines. And so, I had come in, and a lot of things were already done, and that was important, because there were times when different ones of us were going to be gone and could be out, and we kind of had to lean on each other for that.
“Linda Foley has served as a stage manager, and she’s been a lot of help to us, because she keeps up with who’s here, who’s not, when they’re going to be here, when they’re not going to be here, and helped us prompt people on lines, and kind of been our administrative manager in rehearsal.
“Sarah Jane Skinner wasn’t quite a director in this show, but she came in and helped us do some choreography that we needed, because there were weeks I was gone. And so, she came in and kind of filled in the gap and directed choreography, and helped us with some of that kind of stuff.
“And Casey Sandlin has handled the house things, like, for instance, she helped some with fundraising, but she also has prepared the house for us for the show.
“Everybody’s just taken an important role, and if you couldn’t have all those people helping you, you wouldn’t have been able to do it.”
Cook said that very few people had exclusive jobs in the production. Cast members helped build sets and paint scenery, and some members of the production staff appear onstage.
Cook said, “This show is designed to be a very beautiful show. It’s supposed to be a feel-good show. It’s supposed to make you feel good, it’s supposed to be visually stunning. That’s the purpose of it. It was done back in the 60s, and I think it was at a time when things were kind of at a tumultuous state, and so this was supposed to take people out of what they were experiencing in the real world and give them kind of a moment of looking back at the past and considering that that past might have been a little more simpler time, and gave the past a whole lot better look than it probably really was.
“It’s funny, it’s comedy. The sets and the costumes are really beautiful, so I think that’s part of the wow. The other thing is, it’s just a classic.”
Cook was particularly impressed with the sets and sequences for the fictional upscale New York dining establishment “Harmonia Gardens,” and encouraged fans to pay close attention.
Said Cook, “It’s full of dance and it’s full of singing, and just almost that big time show kind of old-fashioned show feel, like an old-fashioned show would been with really elaborate costumes and very elaborate sets and designs. So I think that is a highlight of the show. But there’s a lot in the show, very strong actors.”
Building a dream
Cook hopes that productions like “Hello, Dolly!” will become part of an ongoing artistic movement in Cullman, maybe even one that has its own permanent venue in a freestanding performing arts center.
Said Cook, “I’m really proud of the cast and crew, and it’s been fun. They’ve made it fun. And I think it’s a good restart to what we’re trying to do with community theater, supporting the arts in the community, trying to develop something that can thrive — an artistic community that can thrive — which has been my mantra from the beginning. Let’s do something that enhances our community, and I think the arts are important to that.
“I was telling somebody last night: at the end of the day, that’s my goal, that’s my dream, is to see the arts in a prominent way in our community, so that it just adds that extra dimension that we need for this community to be everything it can be. That’s my dream.”
At a glance
“Hello, Dolly!” continues Saturday and Sunday, July 17-18, 2021
Cullman High School Auditorium, 510 13th St. NE
Saturday, July 17 matinee at 2 p.m., evening at 7 p.m.
Sunday, July 18 at 2 p.m.
For more information and a link to online ticket sales, visit https://www.facebook.com/Cullman-Community-Theater-1783955535053828.
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