If you go
› What: “Hello, Dolly!”
› Where: Chattanooga Theatre Centre, 400 River St.
› When: 8 p.m. Fridays-Saturdays, July 13-14, 20-21, 27-28 and Aug. 3-4; 7 p.m. Thursdays, July 19 and 26 and Aug. 2; 2:30 p.m. Sundays, July 15, 22, 29 and Aug. 5.
› Admission: $11-$30
› For more information: 423-267-8534 or TheatreCentre.com
› Thursday, July 19: Live captioning for the hearing-impaired, 7 p.m.
Chattanooga Theatre Centre will open the Broadway blockbuster "Hello, Dolly!" on Friday, July 13, for four weekends of performances through Aug. 5.
The iconic role of Dolly Levi immediately conjures names of Broadway and film greats who made the role theirs: Betty Grable, Barbra Streisand, Carol Channing, Pearl Bailey and Bette Midler.
Taking on the title role of the irrepressible matchmaker at the Chattanooga Theatre Centre is Beth McClary.
"My goal in life is to try to live up to their legacy. I don't even pretend to feel that I could compete on their stage, but I just want to honor them," McClary says.
McClary has performed in about a dozen productions at the Chattanooga Theatre Centre, as well as at Signal Mountain Playhouse and Oak Street Playhouse. She returned to local stages after a 27-year sabbatical to raise her three children.
Playing opposite her as Horace Vandergelder will be CTC audience favorite Rob Inman.
"Hello, Dolly!" first opened on Broadway in 1964. It is currently enjoying a hit revival in New York City, winning honors at last year's Tony Awards including Best Revival of a Musical.
Theatre Centre director Scott Dunlap is shaping an equally spectacular show, drawing from Thornton Wilder's original play "The Matchmaker," on which the musical is based, to make the CTC production as farcical, humorous and broadly comic as it can be.
Dolly Levi is an enterprising, widowed matchmaker making her way in New York City at the turn of the 20th century. Among her many gigs, she is brokering the match between lady milliner Irene Molloy and Yonkers-based animal feed merchant and miserly "half-a-millionaire" Horace Vandergelder.
Or so it would seem. Dolly actually plans to wed Horace herself, but first she'll have to make it seem like it was his idea.
McClary says Dolly's independence is part of the character's appeal.
"I've had people ask me why I do theater, and I say so I can see the world through other people's eyes. It's amazing what you learn about the human race by playing other people. When you look at Dolly, she was a survivor. She struggled to make ends meet by doing what she knew how to do: matchmaking.
"It's really a story about a woman going from being a survivor to setting herself up to thrive. She really was one of the first feminists, when you think about it, with her ability to persist. And she does it with great humor. It's a funny show," McClary says.
When Vandergelder leaves Yonkers for New York City to pay suit to Molloy, his clerks, Cornelius and Barnaby, decide to take an unauthorized holiday themselves and seek adventure in the big city. Their mischief leads to close encounters with Vandergelder at the most expensive restaurant in New York.
That restaurant, Harmonia Gardens, is where Dolly makes her grand entrance to a triumphant production number of the title song, "Hello, Dolly." An ensemble of dancing waiters, who perform with dazzling precision and breakneck speed, greet her — always the showstopper in every production of "Hello, Dolly!"
But the score is filled with one recognizable Broadway toe-tapper after another: "It Takes a Woman," "Put on Your Sunday Clothes," "Dancing," "Before the Parade Passes By" and "It Only Takes a Moment."
Dunlap has set up a lavish production that will include costumes from CostumeWorld of Florida combined with costuming created in-house. Set design is by Sarah Miecielica, and choreography by Lindsay Fussell.
The singers will be accompanied by an ensemble that includes Marcia Smith, pianist; Mark Trundle, percussion; George Barnett, horns; and Gordon Inman, woodwinds. Andrew Chauncey is musical director.
Anticipating capacity crowds, CTC administration encourages making reservations. For tickets, call the box office at 423-267-8534 or visit TheatreCentre.com.
Irene Molloy: Anne Barbieri
Cornelius Hackl: Jeremy Campbell
Ambrose Kemper: Tanner Dean
Barnaby Tucker: Joshua Harrell
Horace Vandergelder: Rob Inman
Rudolph: Ray Laliberte
Dolly Levi: Beth McClary
Ernestina Money: Stefanie Oppenheimer
Ermengarde: Genna Raborn
Minnie Fay: Kimberly Rye