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'Hello, Dolly!' to open Corn Stock summer season

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It's long been believed in community theater circles that it's the classic musicals — also known as the old warhorses — that draw the largest audiences.

So Corn Stock Theatre decided to begin its 2012 summer season with one of the most popular classic musicals of all time. It then put it in the directing hands of Peggy Breaux, a self-professed "nut about the classics" and the season will start with a flourish.

(Photo courtesy of Corn Stock Theatre) Actors and dancers in the Corn Stock Theatre production of "Hello Dolly!" perform the waiters' dance, one of the most popular scenes of the show. The production opens Friday and continues through June 9."Hello Dolly," written by Jerry Herman and Michael Stewart, opens Friday under the tent in Upper Bradley Park and continues each night through June9. Curtain time is 7:30 p.m. each night.

Tickets are $18 for adults and $12 for children and are now on sale at the Corn Stock box office. They can be reserved by calling (309) 676-2196.

Season tickets are still on sale, as well, for $66 each.

"I just love the classics and I love this one especially because it is so cleverly written with just the right amount of comedy and sarcasm. It really is a very funny show," Breaux said after a recent rehearsal.

Breaux is making her directorial debut under the tent but not in Peoria. She has directed at other venues, mostly youth theatre, but is no stranger to Corn Stock. She said she has done shows under the tent since childhood, notomg her first was "George M!" in 1970.

Breaux has choreographed many musicals at the tent, most recently "The King and I" in 2010, and at the Winter Playhouse.

She choreographed much of this production, as well, and Jennifer Reiter directed some of the bigger pieces, including the waiters' dance that is always a highlight of a "Hello Dolly" production.

The waiters are being portrayed by what Breaux referred to as "a hodgepodge" of performers — meaning varied in dance experience as well as in age. Most, she added, had to be recruited because not many men auditioned.

"There was just so much going on in the area theatre community this summer the usual number of available men was thinner than it usually is and it usually is a problem to begin with. But we got the guys and worked with them and they are great. I can't say enough about how hard they worked," Breaux said.(Photo courtesy of Corn Stock Theatre) Wendy Blickenstaff, pictured, portrays Dolly Gallagher Levi, the main character in the Corn Stock Theatre production of "Hello, Dolly!" which opens Friday.

"Hello Dolly" is based on Thornton Wilder's "The Matchmaker" and tells the story of Dolly Gallagher Levi, a widow who works to bring romance to several couples while keeping her own eye on Horace Vandergelder, who has hired her to find him a wife.

In the Corn Stock production Wendy Blickenstaff returns to a Peoria stage after a long hiatus to portray Dolly. "I feel blessed she picked this show to return after not doing anything on stage in 25 years," Breaux said.

Bill Barr, who has worked backstage for many years in support of his family, decided to take a crack at his first role and was cast as the male lead, Horace Vandergelder. "When you see him on stage you will not believe this is his debut," Breaux said.

Other top roles are being played by Bryan Blanks as Cornelius Hackl, Jordan Lehman as Barnaby Tucker, Erin Durbin Craig as Irene Molloy and Chloe Morton as Minnie Fay.   Barbara Bryant portrays Emengarde, Lisa Chamberlain is Ernestina, Seth Katz is Rudolph, Matt Carlberg portrays Ambrose and Roxann Hendrickson is Mrs. Rose.

Adam Windish and Kelsy Hagan are directing the music for the show, being performed by a live orchestra. The music includes well-known Broadway hits, such as the title song "Hello Dolly!," "Put On Your Sunday Clothes" and "Before the Parade Passes By."

Breaux said having songs people recognize is a big reason why the classic musicals do so well. "You always enjoy musical more when you know the music and can sing along. It's a family show and that's part of the appeal," she said.

(Photo courtesy of Corn Stock Theatre) Erin Durbin Craigm seated, and Bryan Blanks rehearse a scene of "Hello, Dolly!" at Corn Stock Theatre. The show opens Friday. Craig portrays Irene Molloy and Blanks is Cornelius Hackl in Corn Stock's summer season opener.Costuming, a big part of this production, is being headed by Sarah Blume.

"We have a lot of new faces in our cast and crew, new to Corn Stock at least, and that's neat. It's just been a wonderful experience and I'm very excited to get started," she said.

The rest of the Corn Stock summer season will include other well-known shows, including a couple more classics.

The second show will be "The Importance of Being Earnest," the Oscar Wilde masterpiece. Directed by John Johnson it will be performed June 22 through June 30. Tickets will go on sale June 11 and will be $12 for adults and $10 for children.

The third show of the summer will be the musical "Hairspray," scheduled for July 13 through July 21. I is directed by Pam Orear and has a cast of 80. Tickets will go on sale July 3 and will be $18 for adults and $12 for students.

That will be followed by another classic comedy, "Private Lives," slated for Aug. 3 through Aug. 11. It will directed by Charles Brown, who has scheduled auditions for 2 p.m. on June 2 and 3. A non-musical, tickets will be $12 for adults and $10 for children and they will go on sale July 23.

The final show of the regular summer season will be "Hair," the classic from the hippie era of the 60s that gave us such songs as "The Age of Aquarius" and "Good Morning Starshine". Directed by Chip Joyce it will be staged Aug. 24 through Sept. 1. Auditions are scheduled for 1 p.m. June 9 and 10.

Corn Stock has scheduled a sixth show this year. It is a fundraiser and not part of the season ticket package. "The Mikado" will be performed Sept. 5, 6 and 7 at 7:30 p.m. under the tent. It will be directed by Lee Wenger and Denise Adams with the proceeds earmarked for capital improvements to the theater.

Tickets for "The Mikado" will be $18 for adults and $12 for students and will go on sale in mid-August.

Paul Gordon is editor of The Peorian. He can be reached at 692-7880 or

About the Author
Paul Gordon is the editor of The Peorian after spending 29 years of indentured servitude at the Peoria Journal Star. He’s an award-winning writer, raconteur and song-and-dance man. He also went to a high school whose team name is the Alices (that’s Vincennes Lincoln High School in Indiana; you can look it up).