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Tualatin High stages yet another ambitious production with Hello, Dolly!

'Hello, Dolly!' at Tualatin High School“Les Miserables,” “Seussical! The Musical” and now, “Hello, Dolly!” — it’s a line-up one might expect from a professional theater company with Equity actors. But yet again, Tualatin High School students prove they’re up to the task of taking on some of the most ambitious productions out there.

As in past productions, high school meets professional theater. TuHS music director Kim Kroeger teamed up with Dan Murphy of Portland’s Broadway Rose Theatre Company. It’s the 11th show they’ve worked on together, Kroeger explained.

“It’s one of Dan’s favorite musicals,” she said, adding that Murphy does all the choreography. With some strong female vocalists at the school, Kroeger decided all the elements were in place to stage a traditional, beloved musical.

“Hello, Dolly!” follows a few days in the life of matchmaking widow Dolly Gallagher as she attempts to bring together three couples and secure a sweetheart for herself. The musical is based on a farcical play by Thornton Wilder.

This “traditional” musical marks a shift from TuHS’s past two musical productions, both of them operettas.

“It’s a whole different animal,” Kroeger said. “In an operetta, everything is sung,” including lines that would be spoken dialogue in a conventional musical format.

Rachel Gifford, who plays the titular Dolly, agreed.

“It’s just a different rhythm to the show, because everything has a beat in an operetta,” she said. “It was really weird going back to a traditional musical. For some reason, memorizing lyrics to a song is so much easier than (memorizing) straight lines.”

The TuHS senior has been embracing her first primary role. She has performed in the chorus of past productions, including last summer’s staging of “Music Man” with the Broadway Rose Theatre Company. Now, being center stage, she said she’s learned a lot about the unexpected challenges of having a starring role — like all the extra time in the spotlight.

“I have so much more freedom being in a lead role than I have in the past,” she said.

Gifford recently wrapped up auditions for musical theater programs at Belmont University in Nashville, Tenn.; Texas Christian University in Fort Worth, Texas; and Central Washington in Ellensburg, Wash. Although she’s been accepted at each of these schools, she has to wait until March to find out where she’ll be able to pursue a bachelor’s of fine arts degree in performance.

Meanwhile, "Hello, Dolly!" — which was cast last May before school let out for the summer — is keeping her busy.

The cast of 45 students is supported by an additional 22 students in the orchestra pit, led by band director Claud Garrett.

Most of the primary roles are filled by upperclassmen, and Kroeger has seen many of the seniors in the cast take on a leadership role by “grooming the next generation:” showing freshmen and sophomore performers the ropes in a particularly dance-heavy production.

“It’s really been wonderful to watch them blossom and develop and find their characters,” Kroeger said. “Vocally, they’re all phenomenal.”

All five performances of "Hello, Dolly!" will be at the Tualatin High School Auditorium, 22300 Boones Ferry Road. Show times for today (Thursday), Saturday and Feb. 8 and 9 are at 7:30 p.m. There is a Sunday matinee on Feb. 10 at 2 p.m. Tickets are $10 and can be purchased online at tuhs.ttsdschools.org or at the door.



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