"Hello Dolly!" launches new department at St. Catherine University
Opening night is almost here! When the cast of Hello, Dolly! takes the stage at St. Catherine University on Friday, it will celebrate the opening of both a popular musical and a new department at the University.
For years, St. Catherine University has offered separate majors in music and theater, but in order to synthesize training in music with training in theater, students had to double major. In the fall, that all changed, as the University launched a new Music and Theater Department. Now, students at St. Kate’s can major in music theater, combining the best of both worlds.
New options for students
Department Chair Patricia Connors, Ph.D., says she is very excited for the change, as it offers more options to students and it gives St. Kate’s more pull on theatrical productions. Already, two updated majors are offered under the department: A Music Theater major and a Music in the Church major. The department is also working to establish a Music Studies major, which will become available when it is approved.
The development is good news for Adara Bryan ’11, who will become the first music theater graduate at commencement in May. Bryan will be the only student to carry the designation this summer, as she was grandfathered in under the Music and Theater program.
Adara will also make an appearance in the musical that will culminate the achievement on Friday. She is playing Ernestina Money in Hello, Dolly!
“This is my second musical and my fourth production,” says Bryan. “The most exciting part is that it’s on The O’Shaughnessy stage and it’s the biggest venue that I’ve performed a musical at so far.”
Bryan sang in front of a packed house at the commencement ceremonies in the spring of 2009, and she has been invited to sing at commencement again this year. Performing in a musical cast, though, is the icing on top of the cake, as it is for many of St. Kate’s students and faculty.
New options for University
In the past, St. Catherine University partnered with the University of St. Thomas in order to put on musical productions, sharing faculty, staff, resources and locations for each show. However, with the launch of the new department, St. Kate’s will be able to produce musicals completely of its own making, like Hello, Dolly!
The department produced the play, The Miracle Worker, in the fall, but the show opening Friday will be its musical debut.
“We’re excited that the show is a product of our department,” says Connors. She says with the launch of the new department, St. Kate’s is planning to produce a new musical each year.
More about Hello Dolly!
The show will feature direction from St. Kate’s faculty and adjunct faculty, including director Teresa Lyons-Hegdahl, Connors as musical director, choreographer Randy Winkler, orchestra conductor Robert Strusinski, and technical director Troy Wilhelmson — a team that collectively guides a cast of more than 30 students.
The cast will feature St. Kate’s students, as well as students from the University of St. Thomas, a few students from other colleges and four students from the Academy of Holy Angels.
Greta Pahr ‘11, who will play Dolly Levi in the show, has come full circle with her college career at St. Kate’s. She began her studies at St. Kate’s as a freshman, though she transferred out to other colleges in order to try to find a better program in theatrical studies. By her senior year, however, she decided that St. Kate’s was the only place for her, and she returned to St. Catherine University last fall in order to finish out her theater degree.
Having played Dolly Levi in Hello, Dolly! during her senior year of high school, she took the show’s selection as a sign that should she return to St. Kate’s. Now she is more excited than ever for her O’Shaughnessy debut.
“This stage is more prestigious than any I’ve performed on,” she says. “I am extremely excited, and I am extremely nervous!”
Pahr has helped in every aspect of the production, helping to build and paint the sets, working in the costume shop and taking on the lead role. She has even put in time decorating an especially frilly line of hats. She says the production will steal away the audience on Friday, when the doors give way on opening night.
“It’s a really talented cast,” she says. And on top of that, the show has a unique style. “Usually when you see Hello, Dolly! it’s really cartoon-like. But our director is not directing it that way. She is really heavy on acting.”
Pahr said in this version, the audience will meet characters with dimension, as well as hearing the songs that stay in everyone's memory.
“This is our first musical show under the new department,” said JoAnn Holonbek, Associate Professor of Theater at St. Kate’s. “It’s really fun with elaborate costumes. So many of the musicals today, you don’t go out humming. It’s good music, but you just don’t hum the tunes. This is of that vintage that you do.”
Performances of Hello, Dolly! will be at 7 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, March 11 and 12, and at 2 p.m. Sunday, March 13. Tickets are $17 for adults, and $7 for ACTC students, faculty and staff. Tickets can be reserved by calling (651) 690-6700.