Get ready to sing and dance, the Tony-award winning musical “Hello Dolly” will be kicking into high gear on the Academy of Music’s stage starting this week. The popular show is known for its vibrant costumes, catchy music and over-the-top dancing, and this go-around will be no different. In fact, it’s going to be more colorful than ever —just ask ensemble member Brandon Whitmore.
Whitmore studied at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia, and will be retruning to the City of Brotherly Love in his first national tour with this production. Whitmore sat down with Metro to give us more insight on the show and dive into more on what audiences can expect from the high-energy showcase of talent that is “Hello Dolly.”
How did you land a role in the ensemble for this national tour of “Hello Dolly?”
It was a process. I’ve auditioned for this show approximately 7 or 8 times—that includes callbacks, final callbacks and work sessions. The first couple times I auditioned to be a replacement on Broadway. For the national tour, I did the audition, got a work session with Andy Einhorn who was the director on Broadway, and then I had a callback and a final callback, and found out three days later that I had gotten it.
For people who have never seen “Hello Dolly,” how would you describe the show?
Without giving too much of the plot away, I would describe it as vibrant. It’s very light and it’s a love story in a very weird way—[Dolly] is a matchmaker and she just wants everyone to be happy, but then she forgets about her own happiness—it’s a journey overall following her.
Being in the ensemble, how much singing and dancing is there that goes on? Would you say you do one more heavily than the other?
I think for the men it’s definitely balanced. Within the first act, we don’t do too much dancing, although there is a number in the show called “Dancing” so we do in that. But for the men overall, Act II is more of our act. In Act II we’re waiters, and we do this number called “The Waiter’s Gallop” which is one of the most famous dance numbers ever created, and then we go right into “Hello Dolly” the title song after that. That’s basically the gist of the ensemble. In a weird way, we are the chorus, but for the girls in the ensemble, it is different.
What would you say is your favorite part of the show?
I think the show is just very well written. It’s very smart, and it’s a perfect balance between scenes and songs. It’s brilliantly timed—the comedic timing is just fantastic because it is a musical comedy. But my favorite part of the show probably would be “The Waiter’s Gallop,” because it is very athletic and it showcases a lot of the talented boys onstage. It’s our moment to really show our training.
Since you went to school in Philly, how does it feel to be able to hit the stage in a place that’s so familiar while on your first national tour?
I saw one of my dream musicals on the Academy’s stage, “Newsies.” I never thought I would be performing on that exact stage—so it’s a bit nostalgic. Being back in Philly is just going to be great to re-visit the old stomping grounds and say hello to old friends and colleagues. I’m very excited.
What has been the best part overall of getting to travel and perform in such an iconic show?
I think the best part is honestly the audience’s responses to the show. It’s really cool in an interesting way to see different audiences from different states and how they react to the show. Certain audiences think it’s funnier, some audiences think it’s more emotional and some audiences don’t like it—and that is totally okay. That’s the beautiful thing about theater and art, it affects people in different ways.
What do you hope audiences take away from the show after seeing “Hello Dolly?”
Honestly, it’s a good time, and I just want people to smile and have an amazing time at the show. Our country is kind of in some very dark days, or we’ve seen better days I should say. I think this show couldn’t come at a more perfect time. It’s just a two hour and 45 minute moment where people come together and smile and laugh collectively. Everyone forgets about everything and everyone is focused onto this one production of what’s on stage. That’s the beautiful thing about theater—just to enjoy that moment with us, we’re sharing our gifts and our presence with different audiences, so we just hope it’s reciprocated.
Catch “Hello Dolly” at The Academy of Music Feb. 19- March 1. For tickets and showtimes visit kimmelcenter.org