REVIEW: Present Company’s Hello Dolly! at Buxton Opera House

Bryony Thompson, Richard Potts, David Walters and Sarah Potts, left to right , in Hello Dolly!
Bryony Thompson, Richard Potts, David Walters and Sarah Potts, left to right , in Hello Dolly!
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Following in the high-heeled footsteps of extrovert superstar Danny la Rue is quite a challenge, but one that an amateur performer rises to in Derbyshire this week.

Purists may hate the idea of matchmaker Dolly Levi being played by a male, but having seen Richard Potts do just that there’s no doubting that he’s the man for the job.

There was some tut-tutting among fellow spectators at Buxton Opera House at the penultimate show today (Saturday, August 24) and murmurs that the role should have gone to a woman.

I disagree. Richard gave the role a depth and a commanding presence which is how the character should be.

And a woman’s voice would probably have struggled against the might of the orchestra, which at times, was a tad too loud even for Richard’s powerful voice.

Overall, Present Company’s 25th anniversary production, which ends this evening, is a show brimming with superb singing, dynamic dancing and cracking comedy which compensates for the flimsy scenery.

Given that the show is all about matchmaking, it’s fitting there are a number of real-life couples taking part. Richard’s wife, Sarah Potts, sings beautifully in the role of hat-store owner Irene Molloy while the chorus features Mike and Sue Spriggs of Chesterfield and Joan and David Hopkinson of Old Brampton.

David Walters stars opposite Richard as Dolly’s love interest Horace Vandergelder and does a fine job in the role.

Younger members of the cast get plenty of opportunity to shine, namely Jon Morris who lends his fine voice and sparky characterisation to the role of Cornelius Hackl and the nimble-footed Rachael-Louisa Bray from Chesterfield, playing Horace’s niece Ermengarde who only stops bawling her eyes out when she kicks up her heels.

Choreography is a joy to watch, particularly in the Act One finale “Before The Parade Passes By” and the can-can dancing waiters in Act Two.

Hello, Dolly! is another feather in the cap of artistic director Jean Gemmell, who may have taken a controversial decision to put a man in a woman’s role but it’s one that people will be talking about for years to come.

GAY BOLTON