Press Report


Tiverton Gazette


November 29th 2005

Hello, Dolly! - A Great Family Show

    A visit to the Tiverton New Hall found us watching Hello, Dolly! by the Willow Tree Theatre Company, a lively musical theatre piece centred on the matchmaker Dolly Gallagher Levi and her attempts at bringing together hearts otherwise incompetent at sealing the deal of wedded bliss.
    Tracey Parrish in the lead role smiled and radiated a joie-de-vivre which was engaging and played with confidence.  Although all the songs were sung well Hello, Dolly! is the most memorable, purely because it's instantly recognisable.
    Horace Vandergelder, the man Dolly has in her sights, was portrayed by Keith Thomas who played the crabby old boss well, holding down the role of the loveable heavy.  I found his acting a little uncomfortable to begin with but soon he seemed more relaxed and he had a strong presence.
    I enjoyed the bumbling buddies Barnaby and Cornelius, two clerks in Vandergelder's Hay and Feed store, who set out on an adventure in New York.  Both were played with such energy and wide-eyed wonder and both require a lot of physical comedy.
    Rick Barfoot was well cast in his role as Cornelius Hackl, portraying the light-hearted humour very well with such lines as: 'I've never touched a woman before', only to be told in reply: 'You still haven't - that's my corset'.
    Jo Wilson-Hunt, playing Irene Molloy, the widowed proprietor of a hat shop has a wonderful voice, perfect for the song Ribbons Down My Back.  Her straight acting style was complemented by the perky shop assistant Minnie Fay, played by Katy Baker.
    The directing by Jon Sowden brought out moments of comedy which were well choreographed and timed - I particularly liked the banter between Barnaby and Cornelius, as well as parts of the dinner scene. 
The choreography for the dancing waitresses was notable in this scene - a lively and extremely fitting piece.

    Some members of the ensemble were not particularly engaged in the action throughout the show.  However, many of the chorus members had oodles of energy and enthusiasm and were especially worth watching, especially Sammie Firbanks and Chloe Riley.  Some younger actors were more focussed on the action on stage than some of their adult cohorts.
    The six-piece orchestra was above the quality of most community productions I have seen and heard. They looked professional and even though placed to one side of the stage were not distracting at all.  Musically they blended well, turning solid performances of Hello, Dolly! and Before The Parade Passes By.
    The set itself was simple yet effective in creating the scene with red drapes and subtle red lighting.  The scene transitions during the action were done quickly and without affecting the flow of the action.  The mobile sets were creatively designed and had all the necessary props to give a clear definition for the audience to know exactly where the action was taking place.
    The costumes were also wonderful.  Dolly's signature red dress with gold trimming made her the centre of attention and other main characters also wore splendid outfits.  Some of the children's costumes were particularly appealing and all in period.
    The production was a great family show.  The large number of young people in the cast and the fast moving pace held the little ones' interest and there were lots of familiar tunes and happy endings.
    It was an entertaining evening, enjoyed by all.

Reviewer - Shirley Newbery



Audience Reviews


Tiverton Gazette


November 29th 2005

Our Wonderful Willow Tree

I simply had to write to celebrate and commend to Gazette readers the extraordinary talents on display last week during the run of Hello, Dolly! by Tiverton's Willow Tree Theatre Company.
    How thrilling and gratifying to see so many local people working so hard to produce a show of such tremendous quality!  I could not fault the performances of the actors and dancers whose talents and gifts were so wonderfully choreographed and then set under the directorship of Jon Sowden.
    The scenery was of such richness and ingenuity as to make the modest New Hall stage seem twice as large; the high quality of the costumes and musical accompaniment also combined to transport the audience to 1890's New York most effectively.
    I am so pleased to have taken my children to see the show - what an inspiration and example for them, besides being sheer entertainment.
    It was also great to see the Mayor of Tiverton, Paul Williams, among the cast; all in all, a real community event of which Tiverton should be proud.  Thank you so much.

  • RM (Uffculme)

    Hello, Dolly! - Review

    Another success for the Willow Tree Theatre Company as the company hit the heights with their impressive performance of Hello, Dolly!
Taken from 'The Matchmaker' by Thornton Wilder, Hello, Dolly! is an exciting story of matchmaker Dolly Levi, who is employed to find love for irascible Horace Vandergelder (Keith Thomas).  In her blissfully vivacious acts she gets caught up in the excellently presented, hilarious comic antics of his employees Cornelius Hackl and Barnaby Tucker (Rick Barfoot & Steve Gage), whose well timed presentation and directorial inventions added to the unstoppable laughter of the piece.
    Dolly (Tracey Parrish) of whom the stage belonged, played this demanding role exceptionally.  She held an amazing presence on stage.  It was hard not to fall in love with her charisma.
    Set against an amazing set, the company performed the best in the two largest numbers: 'The Waiters Gallop' and 'The Parade' with exciting, dynamic and stylised choreography which added to all the fun of the piece.  In these pieces the chorus never lacked direction and always embraced the excitement of this fast-paced show as they grasped the infectious songs well.  Notable performances were Jan Pannell, Tony Abbot, Crystal Sparks and Sarah Jepps.  The immense energy from the band, conducted by Hilary Wickham, aided the sparkling performance.
    The successes for Irene Holland's company never stop growing as five students, this year alone, won places at top London academies.  It is only sad that their talent, especially their dancing talents, were missed in this performance.  I left the theatre with Dolly's quote in mind - 'Money is like manure, it's no use unless it's spread around encouraging new things to grow'.  This is true of the Willow Tree theatre company whose potential is enormous, an investment ('some manure') would encourage this company to grow and create further dazzling performances.  Furthermore, it is sad that two Willow Tree students in 2005 could not attend their academies because of lack of funding.
    For the Willow Tree the words 'amateur' and 'professional' are truly interchangeable, with this performance they really hit the heights!  I left contented, with a warmth in my heart, - another success for Sowden and Co.

  • Daniel King - BA Hons. (Central School of Speech and Drama)