“Hello, Dolly!” is the theater’s first stage production after the pandemic forced the temporary closure of businesses and activities this summer.
If you’ve seen “Hello, Dolly!” on the stage or in the movies, you will, no doubt, remember the waiter’s gallop scene — roughly nine minutes of choreographed chaos.
Now picture it reduced to six minutes in the middle of a pandemic — in the midst of rules for face masks and social distancing.
Such was the task for Lindsey D. Smith, a Windermere resident and the choreographer for the Garden Theatre’s new stage show, “Hello, Dolly!”
“The dancing number is … about people falling in love,” Smith said. “So how do you do (the musical number) …without people touching each other? We came up with the idea of using ribbons so people could be connected but not touch.
“It started to infiltrate in the entire show,” she said. “Dolly is a matchmaker, and she connects lives, so it became incredible, and it came out beautifully, but it’s not anything like you would have approached the show if you didn’t have the restrictions or the creativity.”
There were other challenges, too, such as learning to sing and dance while wearing masks.
“Everyone had their own corner where they could take off their mask and breathe,” Smith said.
“The waiters dance between scenes … and they are dancing so hard, and I’m so proud of them,” she said. “And they’re doing it in a mask. … By the end of that, everyone is applauding. … You can tell how much work they’re putting into it. … they’re working so hard.”
All of the choreography was written by Smith, which was easier than taking the former choreography and making changes to adhere to COVID-19 safety standards, she said.
“We’re not touching each other, and (we are) prop tracking,” Smith said. “Like in the waiter’s gala, they’re normally carrying trays and plates. … We didn’t want people handing things to each other. So everyone has a napkin and a tray, so you had to choreograph the tracking of those trays. Everyone had to keep track of their tray and their napkin.”
Lillie Thomas is portraying Irene Molloy in her Garden Theatre debut.
Irene is a widow and a beautiful, smart, fun-loving milliner with a hat shop in New York. Dolly has introduced her to Horace Vandergelder, but she yearns for romance.
To portray her character, Thomas looked to her aunt, Novella Thomas, for inspiration.
“She’s a smart woman, she’s very devoted to those around her, especially her late husband, she was always devoted to him,” Thomas said. “She owned a business, but she was always fun, loving and super smart, and she would find a fun and loving way to teach you lesson.”
The modified rehearsals were a challenge, she said. “But it forces us as actors to use other things in our tool box to pull those emotions and bring those characters out more.”
The dancing scenes track the progression of love, from the initial meeting to feeling the love and seeing it progress, Thomas said.
“It’s great to see that the ribbons are incorporated into that and presenting that as love.”
“I think people are excited to be back in the theater and seeing live art,” Smith said. “But our performers will be wearing masks. That’s a reflection of what’s going on around us right now. … I think the masks disappear when they come out.”
“Hello, Dolly!” is presented by Bob and Dianna Duffy and directed by Joseph C. Walsh.