WAXAHACHIE — Broadway and the big screen will take center stage this weekend on the campus of Southwestern Assemblies of God University when three long months of preparation is on display in the form of a classic romantic comedy — "Hello, Dolly."
After casting in December and beginning rehearsals in early January, the SAGU theatre department is prepared to entertain audiences with three showings at the Hagee Center Performance Hall on the SAGU campus Friday — Sunday. The legendary Broadway musical first premiered in Jan. 1964 and was then adapted for the big screen in the 1969 film that starred Barbra Streisand as Dolly.
"Hello, Dolly" will be the third spring musical for the SAGU theatre department. Previously, the students have pulled off the productions of the "The 1940s Radio Hour" and "Godspell."
The play, adapted from the 1964 musical by Jerry Herman and book by Michael Stewart, is under the direction of SAGU theatre professors Sarajane Stewart and Ronnie Blount. Stewart has directed the choreography and majority of the on stage direction, while Ronnie Blount has overseen the backstage and set production aspects.
The SAGU preview of the play, found on the website for events held at the Hagee Center, promises the musical to be a "joyful theatre experience for audiences of all ages."
"In turn-of-the-century New York, professional meddler and matchmaker Dolly Levi decides she’s going to marry miserly half-a-millionaire Horace Vandergelder — and that’s where the fun begins," the SAGU description reads. "'Hello, Dolly' is a sparkling Broadway musical comedy filled with witty banter, classic mix-ups, and unforgettable songs."
In the leading role as Dolly Levi is SAGU student Abi Huff, who Stewart said stood out during auditions because of her timing.
"She is the title character and her character carries the story. We needed someone who understands how to deliver smart, snappy dialogue without throwing lines away," Stewart said. "We also needed someone who could hold up to this sort of larger than life character and that is really what separated her in the audition process."
Playing the role of Horace Vandergelder is recent SAGU graduate James Bridges, who was cast after the original "Horace" was accepted into the Dallas Police Academy. Bridges is not a novice to the musical stage, Stewart said, as he was in a leading role just last year.
"He has just been a fantastic addition to the theatre program over the years, so we are really pleased to have him back," she noted.
Blount added, "He (Bridges) just nails it. When he auditioned, he just seemed to take on the persona quite well."
The show opens Friday, March 24 at 7:30 p.m. with additional showings Saturday, March 25 at 7:30 p.m. and a Sunday, March 26 matinee at 3 p.m.
Stewart said she is "very excited" for the curtains to finally be drawn back for the first showing.
"It has just been wonderful and we have such a fantastic cast. They are talented students but they are also really great people with a lot of character and they work well together," Stewart said. "Putting together something with so many moving parts is a long process but they have been really good to each other throughout the process and we have had a great time."
Tickets, which can be purchased online at sagu.brushfireapp.com/tickets or at the door, are $10.
Travis M. Smith, @Travis5mith