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Taking Family to the Theater

Aldersgate’s “Dolly” brings mothers, daughters and sons onstage together.

When “Hello, Dolly!” first opened in New York City in 1964, it starred Carol Channing in the title role, and David Burns as her love interest. The show ran for almost 3,000 performances and briefly held the record for the longest-running Broadway production before it was overtaken by “Fiddler on the Roof.” Last week, Aldersgate Church Community Theater launched their own version of “Hello, Dolly!” to an almost sold-out crowd on opening night.

Mim Vander-Linden, an Aldersgate veteran, helped out first-time producers Bobbie Herbs and Susie Poole, who stepped into the role of Ernestine with only a week before opening night.

Herbst helped out with “The Music Man,” the youth production at Aldersgate this spring. When she was asked to co-produce “Dolly,” she decided that she was ready for a major production. "We are very proud of this cast and crew, and think this is a musical that people would not want to miss," said Herbst.

Poole got involved with Aldersgate Theater when her daughter Jessica was in “Music Man,” and she agreed to co-produce “Dolly.” "It really came together very well. It's always surprising the first time," she said.

“DOLLY’S” CAST IS “a really good bunch,” said Poole, “a good mix.” While director Dru Vander-Linden had final say on who was selected, Poole and the other producers sat in on the auditions, which gave Poole insight into how hard it is to make the selections.

With two more weeks left, Poole hopes that people will come out and see the show.

"It's funny and it gives you a good feeling," said Poole.

Maureen Ribble stars as matchmaker Dolly Levi, joined by Teddy Gron as Horace Vandergelder, the millionaire who asks Levi to find him a mate. After the show, one of Gron’s friends, looking at his clean-shaven head, said, “Daddy Warbucks next.”

Levi finds an attractive young widow named Irene Molloy, played by Marie Wakefield (Mim Vander-Linden) as a likely candidate for Horace’s affections, but Levi immediately begins interfering in their courtship.

At the same time, Barnaby Tucker and Cornelius Hackle, two of Horace’s clerks at the Vandergelder Hay and Feed Store played by Peter Thomas and Ronnie Hardcastle, plot how they can take advantage of their boss’s absence while he courts Molloy.

As in any romantic comedy, there are mix-ups and chance encounters. Barnaby and Cornelius take a day off and intend to avoid their boss. But as luck would have it, he "happens" to come by the hat shop while they are there, "looking to buy a hat for a lady." Although Vandergelder is supposed to meet Molloy, she becomes smitten by Hackle, her assistant is taken with Tucker and the fun goes on and on.

Sets by designer Hal Hunt have drawn attention, and the set for the restaurant Harmonia Gardens will be sold in a silent auction being conducted between now and July 12, with a $100 minimum bid.

Hunt, an artist from Idaho, initially came to paint a picture at Mount Vernon Country Club. He got involved in set painting and construction at the Little Theatre of Alexandria and has been helping other groups since then. John Downing was the master builder of the sets.

ONE QUIRK OF the cast is the number of family groups who participated. The Vander-Lindens, Mim and Dru, have performed together for years. But there were other mother-daughter and mother-son teams as well. Even the Girl Scouts who served the sherbet and ice cream during intermission included a duo, servers Erin and Jill Lutes.

Both Herbst and Poole's daughters, Elizabeth Herbst and Jessica Poole, had small parts in the show: a small perk for putting one's life on hold for two months to produce. Herbst's husband, Mark, helped out in the production area, and her son, Cory, worked the lights. Poole's mother, Carol Coyle, helped with costumes; her husband, Jeff Poole, is working on the July 4th picnic.

Priscilla and Derek Marsh are both in the show. Priscilla decided to come back to the stage for the first time since high school to encourage her son, Derek, to perform.

"Derek was in ‘Music Man’ and he enjoyed it," said Marsh. "When I saw this, I thought it would be fun to do."

Marsh wanted to encourage her son to audition, so she said, "Why don't we audition together?" They did, and both were cast in the chorus; Derek also had a small walk-on part in the final scene.

PROUD FATHER AND husband George Marsh, was at opening night in his tuxedo. A first violinist with the National Symphony Orchestra, George Marsh wanted to be dressed appropriately for the black tie optional reception, held after the opening night performance.

Three shows were held last weekend, and on the Monday after opening week, Marsh said, "Today, we're resting." Fortunately, George's job with the NSO allows him some flexibility and he was off last week to help out with their 8-year-old daughter, but Marsh said that there were some babysitting issues.

"It's been a lot of fun, a big sacrifice of time, but we've met a lot of nice people," said Marsh.