Ford City newlyweds share their love for performing in Armstrong Community Theater's 'Hello, Dolly!'

| Wednesday, July 17, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

Mallory Mousseau and Jake Grantz have left no doubt that they really wanted to be part of Armstrong Community Theater's annual summer musical.

The Ford City residents' dedication is evidenced in the fact that they auditioned for “Hello, Dolly!” knowing that the show would run July 18 through 20, at Kittanning High School, just a few short weeks after their June 29 wedding, and they just might have to study their lines and rehearse their songs on their honeymoon.

Being able to play opposite one another as newlyweds — she in the lead as matchmaker Dolly Levi and he in the key role of “half-a-millionaire” Horace Vandergelder — was just too enticing of a wedding present for them to pass up, they say.

“I am so thrilled. If you enjoy classic love stories and a real-life husband and wife playing opposite each other, you'll love this,” Mousseau says. She says she's dreamed of playing the character since she was a child. “I love this character, because so much of who I am is Dolly.”

Mousseau toured the country for two years teaching and acting with Missoula Children's Theatre, and has worked with Pittsburgh's Civic Light Opera, Apple Hill Playhouse, Greensburg Civic Theatre, New Kensington Civic Theatre and The Theatre Factory.

Everyone may be expecting her to offer the Barbara Streisand film version as Dolly, she says. “But I am striving to create my own version, one that I hope the audience will fall in love with,” Mousseau says. “It's so important the audience sees Dolly as a real person with real struggles and not a caricature.”

Grantz says he always wanted the chance to play Horace, and was hopeful his wife (at that time, fiance) would be cast as Dolly. “So, it was a dream come true for both of us,” he says. “My mother and father-in-law (Plum residents Jim and Diane Mousseau ) waited years until playing opposite each other very recently onstage, and I am glad Mallory and I have had the chance right after our marriage.”

First-time director Monica Dudek of Manor is impressed with the above-and-beyond-the-call-of-duty dedication the newlyweds displayed in blending theater with their wedding plans.

She praises the collaborative efforts “of everyone's creative ideas” in the cast. While “Hello, Dolly!” is indeed a classic, she says “it isn't one of those old shows that will only appeal to the baby boomers. It has timeless humor all ages can appreciate.”

Karissa Lloyd of Vandergrift, who is excited to finally perform in this show, agrees.

“It is a hilarious show, and I'm not sure that many expect it to be,” she says. “Sure, maybe people know it's a classic by its title, but it's lasted because it's funny, and it's touching, and somehow Dolly Levi reaches into our hearts and drags us into the tapestry she weaves.”

The story reminds Lloyd of a Shakespearean comedy at times — “characters going along with other characters to save face, while all along one (Dolly) is holding all the reins.”

Lloyd, who portrays Irene Molloy, a widow and hat maker in New York City, believes it resonates with the audience because it is truly such a tale, led by a tour-do-force with familiar personalities.

“There's the busybody with her nose in everyone's life, the grumpy old man, the woman tired of the restraints of her job and station, the clerk who, at 28 and three-quarters of a year old, has never kissed a girl,” she says. “It's funny, and touching and a little whimsical.”

Since the show is about love, “something we all search for,” adds Emily Younkins of West Franklin, it strikes a chord with everyone. “There are fun dances and songs, colorful costumes and characters that will entertain everyone,” she says.

Younkins plays eccentric heiress Ernestina Money. “I love to make people laugh,” she says.

Troy Dinga of Ford City is Cornelius Hackl, the quick-witted chief clerk at the Vandergelder feed store, who yearns to meet the woman of his dreams.

“I really enjoy Cornelius, because of how sure he is that he can get out of just about every situation that he's in, which is balanced by how truly naive and inexperienced he is with the world around him,” he says.

“Losing and searching for love in the doldrums of everyday life is a storyline that has never ceased to bring audiences in and bring them closer together,” he says. He sees the musical — with lyrics and music by Jerry Herman and a book by Michael Stewart — as a quaint, charming, quickly paced and “hilarious, almost-sitcom” of a show.

It is so down-to-earth and portrays such big dreams, adds Emmaline Bramlet of North Buffalo, “that you can't help but feel pulled into the tale.” She has the role of “first cook” and is involved in many of the ensemble numbers.

Director Dudek says slowly the puzzle is coming together. “The original Broadway production had a set that was mobile. For a limited budget, we kept things brilliantly simple. It is looking fabulous, but we had to consider the limitation of movement and man power.”

The goal is to make this production their own, Lloyd says. “The lack of huge, cumbersome set pieces lends to our appeal, as it really drives focus to the people, the cast bringing the show to life.”

“‘Dolly,'” Grantz says, “is a show that everyone who loves theater needs a chance to experience.”

Rex Rutkoski is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-226-4664 or

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