Identifying with ‘Dolly’ proves easy

By Tracey D’Astolfo

Maureen Collins is right at home in the title role of ‘Hello Dolly.’

YOUNGSTOWN — Maureen Collins is coming back to a role she last played 25 years ago, but with a whole new perspective.

She’s playing the title character, Dolly, in Easy Street Productions’ “Hello, Dolly!” The time that has gone by has made her identify with the role even more.

“Hello, Dolly!” opens a two-weekend run Friday at Powers Auditorium. It’s the first in the Youngstown Symphony Society’s performing arts series, which also includes “The Music Man” in March and “Guys and Dolls” in May. Easy Street is staging all of the musicals.

“Hello, Dolly!” is the story of brassy widow Dolly Levi’s matchmaking attempts in 1890s New York City. When millionaire Horace Vandergelder procures Dolly’s matchmaking services, Dolly sets her sights on marrying him herself.

Collins last played Dolly a quarter-century ago in a Youngstown Playhouse production. She said she can understand and relate to the character better now, because she is at a similar point in her own life.

“It’s a fun thing to come back to the role after 25 years, because now I’m living it,” she said. “I feel like I’m a lot like Dolly, helping form other people’s lives and finally deciding, ‘Hey, I want a life of my own.’

“I’m at an age now when maybe Carol Channing was when she first did the role on Broadway. The age when you feel you don’t want to live in the past, you want to move ahead and start living now again.”

Easy Street co-founder Todd Hancock, who directs the show, plans to be faithful to the 1964 Broadway production, which starred Channing.

“We are staying as true to the original as possible, trying to re-create the choreography, the set pieces and the costumes.”

The show includes musical numbers “Put On Your Sunday Clothes,” “It Only Takes A Moment,” “Before The Parade Passes By” and, of course, “Hello Dolly.”

There are more than 40 members in the cast, plus an orchestra. Jeff Sanders serves as musical director and Renee Rogers is handling choreography.

Other cast members include David Jendre as Horace Vandergelder, James McClellan as Cornelius Hackle, Kathy Shook as Irene Malloy, Patrick Burgan as Barnaby Tucker, Emily Schrader as Minnie Fay, Brendan Boyle as Am- brose Kemper and Colleen Crish as Ernestina.

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