Published: Friday, November 29, 2013 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, November 27, 2013 at 6:17 p.m.
For nearly 50 years, audiences have followed the meddlesome Dolly Gallagher Levi as she searches for a match for the grumpy half-a-millionaire Horace Vandergelder.
'Hello, Dolly!' starring Sally Struthers
What: National tour of famed musical
When: 7:30 p.m. Monday
Where: Phillips Center, 3201 Hull Road
Tickets: $45-$65, $20 for UF students
Info: 392-2787, Ticketmaster.com
On Monday at 7:30 p.m., area audiences can witness the action firsthand, when “Hello, Dolly!” starring Sally Struthers in the title role, visits the Phillips Center.
Struthers, a two-time Golden Globe and Emmy-award winner, says her character is bright, funny and tender-hearted, and that her relentless actions relay an important message to audiences.
“When you feel stuck, push. When you think you're alone and you're complacent and you're giving up, rejoin the human race,” Struthers says. “Don't let the parade pass you by.”
A winner of 10 Tony Awards including Best Musical, “Hello, Dolly!” was first produced in 1964 on Broadway, where it would become known as Carol Channing's signature role. Since then, it has spurred three Broadway revivals and a 1969 film nominated for seven Academy Awards starring Barbra Streisand and Walter Matthau.
The musical is based on Thornton Wilder's 1955 play, “The Matchmaker.” Struthers says Wilder's words combined with music and lyrics by Jerry Herman create a flawless production. “It's a perfect marriage. That's why this play has stood the test of time,” she says.
“We've never failed to get anything less than a rousing standing ovation. The audience is pulling for everyone on that stage who Dolly is trying to make a match for, and they're pulling for Dolly herself. It's a very lovely, memorable time in the theater.”
Struthers, famous for her role as the strong Gloria Stivic on TV's “All in the Family,” says her role in this production sends a message to an entertainment industry that doesn't place as much value on aging female actors as it does for their male counterparts.
“How many 66-year-old women get to be the title character of a production? I don't plan on quitting any time soon, but I doubt I will ever play the title lead of anything again. Women in show business are told to hang it up at 40. They're told, you're over the hill now.”
University of Florida Performing Arts Director Michael Blachly says Struthers' performance, alongside her work with charities aiding hungry and uneducated children, will inspire audiences as the holiday season approaches.
“It's an opportunity to see a real seasoned actress who can play a current piece,” he says. “She's a person who has contributed a lot of her own effort to helping people and doing good. It's uplifting. It's a way of rejuvenating yourself in this festive time of year.”
This touring production of the musical will cover a vast area of the country, making eight stops in Florida alone. Struthers anticipates audiences will hum the show's tunes in their cars on the way home, and that the play's message about resilience will resonate for days to come.
“If you want to be a person making a difference in others' lives, you have to teach people to dust themselves off and get back up again,” she says. “The human spirit is indomitable. If you're willing to take a deep breath and try it again, there's hope that tomorrow will be brighter.”
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