The Emmett Hook Center for the Performing Arts is saying “Hello, Dolly!” beginning July 6 and running two weekends. The local staging is headed by Seva May, one of the area’s premier vocalists, who is backed up by more than two dozen community actors.

Hello, Dolly! premiered in 1964 on Broadway. It’s based on Thornton Wilder’s 1938 farce, The Merchant of Yonkers. In 1955, Wilder revised and retitled the show, calling it The Matchmaker. The musical follows Dolly Gallagher Levi, a matchmaker, who is hired to find a wife for the well-known, but unmarried “half-a-millionaire,” Horace Vandergelder.

The 1964 Broadway production won a record tying 10 Tony Awards, including Best Musical. It’s been revived four times in New York and has seen international success in the intervening years. It was turned into a film in 1969, which was nominated for seven Academy Awards and won three.

The role of Dolly was originally written for Ethel Merman, but Merman turned it down, and so did Mary Martin. Eventually, producer David Merrick hired Carol Channing who created Dolly as her signature role. 

The show became one of the staples of the Great White Way in the later half of the 1960s, running for 2,844 performances.

There’s no word yet on whether Shreveport audiences will hold this version over that long, but some of those involved in the production are very high on the property.

David Brown will portray Cornelius Hackl, a frustrated workingman yearning for more excitement in his life — specifically some female companionship. “It’s a part that I always wanted to play. It was my first show that I was ever a part of in high school. I fell in love with it then and am still in love with it.”

This is May’s second time to act in Hello, Dolly! Previously, she played Mrs. Irene Molloy in the Marjorie Lyons Playhouse production a few years ago and getting an opportunity to play the matchmaker was definitely on her bucket list. “It’s one of those iconic roles that any actress would want to play. That’s a challenge to develop that character.”

John Horton is a community actor that has appeared on local stages since 1987. He’s done all but two of the summer musicals staged at First United Methodist since that time. If there’s a consistent figure in summer musicals, it’s John Horton.

“Well, I’ve always wanted to be an actor when I was a kid. I saw an audition notice, so I decided to audition, and I got a part. Later on I saw the movie South Pacific and I said I could do that. I love to act. Acting is in my blood. I’ve always loved Hello, Dolly!

Of all his roles in summer musicals, Horton said his favorite was that of Maurice, Belle’s father, in Beauty and the Beast. 

The role of Ermengarde, the whiny niece of Horace Vandergelder, will be played by Kaylee Tinsley, who until last month was playing the role of senior at Northwood High School. She credits a teacher, Maranda Stewart, with opening the curtain to theatre for her. “I came into musical theatre when I was 15 and not really knowing much about it or having friends in the musical theatre community. And now, I have forever friends and I think it’s a great experience for anybody.”

Rick Stovall plays the curmudgeonly eligible bachelor, Vandergelder, despite his obvious singing talent, Stovall’s requirements for accepting the role were basic. “This is very lighthearted, and my character does minimal dancing.”

Even though Stovall has been spared the bulk of the dancing chores, the rest of the cast has been going through their paces for choreographer Andra Armstrong. Not all of the other actors are as reluctant to hoof it was Stovall, she said. “Everyone who’s in the show is willing to try. I think everyone has stepped up to the plate and is doing a great job.”

Musical direction for Hello, Dolly! is under Robert Young, a veteran of local stage and orchestra. “I just enjoy theatre,” he said. “It keeps me young, it keeps me mentally alert. It’s always fresh to work with the new actors and actresses and, hopefully, to help them improve their skills and their talent.”

Additional information and tickets are available on the Emmett Hook Center website at www.emmetthookcenter.org, or by calling the box office at 318.429.6885.