Broadway Adventures: Fun, Firsts, and Filipinos at Hello, Dolly!

Pudding!

That’s the code word Cornelius Hackl tells Barnaby Tucker they’ll to indicate they are having an adventure in Hello, Dolly! It’s quite fitting because our blog name is The Adventures of Amanda and Ashley, after all, and watching the national tour of Hello, Dolly! certainly was an adventure that made us want to yell “Pudding!”

We started out the month by watching Hello, Dolly! at the Oriental Theatre in downtown Chicago. We’ve wanted to watch it for nearly a year but were convinced that we had to see it when the full touring cast was announced. Julian DeGuzman, our fellow Filipino whom we first discovered in Newsies, was included in the list of ensemble members, and that was more than enough reason to go. Even better, though, Jess LeProtto, who was competed on season eight of So You Think You Can Dance, was announced to play the role of Barnaby Tucker. We watched Jess during his season of SYTYCD and were excited about his inclusion.

Like many people, we were first exposed to Hello, Dolly! after watching the Disney Pixar movie WALL-E. Among the many human belongings WALL-E has found is an iPod that has the Hello, Dolly! movie on it. He watches them perform “Put On Your Sunday Clothes” and grabs objects to help him mimic the choreography.

Less than a year after watching WALL-E, we went on a field trip to see a production of Hello, Dolly! at the high school we were set to attend. However, we don’t remember anything from that high school production and went into watching the national tour production knowing only what we saw in WALL-E and the number performed at the 2018 Broadway in Chicago summer concert. Because of this, we weren’t quite sure what to expect other than it should be good. We knew the Broadway revival had won the 2017 Tony Award for Best Revival among other awards, and we had heard that Betty Buckley is legendary. When the tour got to Chicago, we also saw that the Chicago Tribune gave the show four stars. Despite this, we didn’t get our hopes up or were expecting too much of it. We went in with an open mind and were simply looking forward to seeing a show new to us.

Our seats were in the front of the right center balcony and offered a great view of the stage. We’ve been to Broadway in Chicago shows before but never one at the Oriental Theatre. It’s a beautiful theater with intricate detailing throughout and was a wonderful venue for Hello, Dolly!

When the curtain came up shortly after 7:30 p.m., our first thought was “Where’s Julian?” Fortunately for us, he was easy to spot in the front, stage right. The song and music progressed, and then a prop horse controlled by two people appeared on stage. Normally, a horse prop wouldn’t be exciting. But Julian introduced his Instagram followers to this horse named “Tita Patty” (Tagalog/Filipino for “Aunt Patty”) and said he was excited for us to all meet her on tour. So we were amused by the sight of her. (Check out Julian’s Instagram story titled “Tita Patty” to hear from her! It may not be as funny if you aren’t Filipino, though.)

From the start, we realized the show was a lot more comedic than we thought, which was a pleasant surprise. Betty Buckley did a wonderful job from curtain rise to curtain fall. Her portrayal of Dolly Levi seemed effortless, and we’re glad we got to see her lead the show.

Credit: Julieta Cervantes

During the first scene at Vandergelder’s Hay and Feed, Cornelius and Barnaby popped up (literally), and we were thrilled to see Jess. It didn’t take us long to realize he was perfect for Barnaby, and we absolutely loved his portrayal of the character. We had really only known Jess for his dancing abilities, so we enjoyed his acting and singing. But we were still in awe of the fouettes he did during one of the dance breaks.

Nic Rouleau was also impressive as Cornelius. One of the best parts about seeing Hello, Dolly! was being introduced to talent we didn’t know about, and he was no exception. Morgan Kirner, who plays Ermengarde, does a high-pitched shriek throughout the show, and, although purposefully annoying, it had us wondering how she could possibly yell like that an on a consistent basis.

Credit: Julieta Cervantes

The choreography included a variety of styles from classic jazz/musical theatre to ballroom and allowed the ensemble to shine. It fit the late 19th century setting of the show without making it feel like we were watching something outdated. The songs and music were fun, entertaining, and complemented the story well.

By the time the show was over, we felt good having enjoyed the show we just watched and could see why its original production made it a classic. The only songs either of us knew of beforehand were “Put on Your Sunday Clothes,” “Elegance,” and “Hello, Dolly!” so it was nice to hear them in context with the show and see it all come together.

Once most people left the balcony, we did what we now always do after shows: pick up all the Playbills left behind. We wanted more than one Playbill because we were going to stage-door (say hi to performers and get autographs from the cast), but we prefer having one as-is and one signed. We’ve never understood why some people don’t take their Playbill with them―it’s a free, collectible souvenir that people collect and some even pay for! After we added more Playbills to our collection, we headed out as fast as we could to go to the back of the theater where the stage door is. Ashley had stage-doored before when she lived in New York during summer 2017, but this was going to be Amanda’s first-ever stage door experience!

Earlier that day, Ashley actually tweeted Julian to let him know we were coming to that night’s show, wanted to meet him, and had a present for him. He replied and confirmed he’d be at the stage door later that day, so we had been waiting all day to say hi to him! Any time someone came out of the stage door, we’d hope it was Julian or Jess.

One of the first people we saw at the stage door was Nic. Like everyone else who came out to say hello to fans, he went down the line of people and signed autographs with the occasional quick conversation that was more than “You did great tonight!” and/or “Thank you!” but each person was pretty quick. Not too long after we got to the stage door, Ashley saw that Jess came out and was already signing autographs. We got excited, especially because that meant we actually had something more to say to someone other than “Great job!” and “Thanks for the autograph!”

Amanda, Jess LeProtto, and Ashley

When Jess made his way over to us in the stage door line, we told him that we had watched him when he was on SYTYCD. He was so happy that he, in turn, made us really happy. We also told him that we love following other SYTYCD alumni who go to Broadway. After he signed our Playbills, we got a photo with him. It was a really great moment, because we weren’t sure whether we’d get to meet Jess―who’s also a Newsie―and we’ve never met any of our favorite SYTYCD dancers before.

A couple more people came out and signed autographs before Ashley spotted Julian come out of the stage door. Surprisingly, neither of us introverts were anxious about meeting Julian (or Jess for that matter). Rather, we were just really excited―we were going to meet a Filipino who works in Broadway and was a Newsie! When Julian came over to us, we said hi, and Amanda told him that we were the ones who tweeted him earlier that day. He recalled the tweet, asked for our names, gave us each a hug, and thanked us for the support. He was happy to meet fellow Filipinos―particularly ones who see Broadway shows. Then, we gave Julian the gift we made him: a canvas painting inspired by the Philippine flag. He thought it was cool―cool enough to showcase when we took a photo together!

Amanda, Julian DeGuzman, and Ashley
🇵🇭 🇵🇭 🇵🇭

Having already met the people we stage-doored for and with it nearing 11 p.m., we stayed at the stage door for a couple more minutes before leaving to end the adventurous day we had.

We’re glad we saw Hello, Dolly! in Chicago before the parade passed by, and you should, too, if you get the chance. (Say hi to Julian for us if you do!)

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