Jerry Herman’s Hello, Dolly! is one of those big production musicals that never fails to put an audience in a good mood. When this musical opened for the first time in 1964, it went on to play for 2,844 performances. Based on Thornton Wilder’s novel The Matchmaker, its the story of Dolly Levi, a matchmaker who describes herself as a professional “meddler.” A widow for too long, she sets her sights on Horace Vandergelder, a wealthy but grumpy man looking for a wife.

It  has been 12 years since Musicals at Richter last presented this big musical. This time Bradford Blake, founding artistic director, directs and choreographs the production and his wizardry shows in every aspect. From the clever set pieces that move scenes from dry goods store to hat shop to fine restaurant and other locales, each major piece of the set functions effectively and attractively. Blake accents the traditional song Before The Parade Passes By with a colorful nod to the patriotic marchers as they turn clever poles into the American flag.

Cat Heidel plays the title character with plenty of pizzazz. She definitely captures the essence of the good-natured Dolly and she has a good strong voice, though she missed a note or two here and there. (Perhaps it was because it was such a windy and cold night when I saw the outdoor production.)

Mike Armstrong leaves no doubt as to his ability to command the stage as Horace Vandergelder.  He epitomizes what a grump is and lets everyone know it. The  sweetheart of the show is Katherine Wolff as Irene Molloy. Her voice is angelic and her characterization most pleasant. One could easily understand how Cornelius Hackl, played by Karl Hinger, falls in love with Irene Molloy. Best of all, Hinger actually acts as though he is head over heels in love with her.

Lexi Tobin takes on the role of pretty-in-pink Minnie Fay, assistant to Molloy in Molly’s hat shop. Tobin’s performance is silken smooth throughout every musical number and through her graceful, light-as-a-feather dance routine. Andrew Kocur plays Barnaby Tucker, Cornelius Hackl’s sidekick, with plenty of spunk. Also featured in the production are Cole Urso, Jessica Cerasoli, Dolly Conner, Dr. Barbara Kessler, Michael Wright, Matt Austin, Ted Schwartz, and Steve Stott. The male and female ensemble added beautiful harmony and dance to the production.

Peter Randazzo conducts the talented orchestra and Lauren Nicole Sherwood designed the period costumes and wigs. Wendy Wildman is credited with Dolly Levi’s costumes.

This rousing production, which features favorite songs such as It Only Takes a Moment and the title song Hello, Dolly!, runs through June 25. Box office: 203-748-6873.

Joanne Greco Rochman is an active member in The American Theatre Critics Association.  She welcomes comments.