Back where it belongs: ‘Hello, Dolly!’ returns to SIU’s McLeod Theater stage

by Pete Rosenbery

CARBONDALE, Ill. — The matchmaking and romantic exploits of Dolly Gallagher Levi come to the Southern Illinois University Carbondale McLeod Theater stage next week as “Hello, Dolly!” closes out the 2024 McLeod Summer Playhouse season.



The ensemble for the upcoming McLeod Summer Playhouse production “Hello, Dolly!” at a recent rehearsal. Performances are at 7:30 p.m. July 12-13 and July 19-20 and 2 p.m. July 14 and July 21 in SIU Carbondale’s McLeod Theater. (Photo by Amihere Benson) 


The Tony Award-winning musical, which follows Levi’s pursuit of unmarried half-a-millionaire Horace Vandergelder, was part of MSP’s first season. This year’s performances are at 7:30 p.m. July 12-13 and July 19-20 and 2 p.m. July 14 and July 21. 


Angela Shultz, an assistant professor of practice in the School of Music, is portraying the title character. 


“Besides playing an iconic role in musical theater, I relate to Dolly,” Shultz said. “She easily sees how she can make things better for others, but it often leaves her needs unmet. It’s the plight of teachers, caregivers, parents.” 


An award-winning singer, actor and teaching artist, Shultz’s background includes performing in numerous productions in New York City. She said she has never had to memorize so much in a musical. 


“It’s enormously challenging and thrilling,” Shultz said. “Without a doubt, my favorite part has been sharing this process with professionals and connecting with that part of myself again. Even more so, sharing the stage with my students is a singular experience. I’ve loved watching their knowledge and passion thrive and grow, and it’s added a nuance to our work together.” 


Then, there are the musical’s famous songs. 


“Who can walk away not singing these songs? It’s also a show that has featured some of the most iconic leading ladies since it premiered 60 years ago,” Shultz said. “Whatever your personal experience with love, you’ll find a story to connect with in the show, and I think it’s why it has stood the test of time.” 


SIU theater alumnus is director 


“Hello Dolly!” marks the 100th directing project for director Bill Kincaid, a former SIU faculty member and Master of Fine Arts theater graduate, since his thesis production in 1988. In addition to university productions, Kincaid, an emeritus faculty member at Western Illinois University, has directed comedies, dramas, musicals and Shakespeare at theaters in nine states, including Illinois. After going to SIU in the 1980s, Kincaid returned to serve on the theater faculty in the late 1990s and early 2000s and has directed several shows on the McLeod stage. 


“It feels fitting that my 100th show is back on the McLeod stage,” said Kincaid, who celebrated his 60th birthday on June 11, which was the first day of rehearsals. “It seemed fitting to start a new decade doing something I love so much and doing it in a location that has been such a big part of my life. I have a long history here and lots of great memories.” 


Classic tale of love and romance 


Kincaid said his interest in the “beloved classic” begins with the play “The Matchmaker,” which was written by Thorton Wilder, and from where the musical adaptation was born.  


He noted that “Before the Parade Passes By,” the last song in Act One, “is about embracing joy, putting the past behind you and living life to the fullest; it’s about looking around and acknowledging everyday beauty.” 


“It also intrigues me that the play follows the story of four couples, all at different stages in their lives, and it explores what love and romance mean to people of different ages,” Kincaid said. “Depending on where a person is in their life, they may be looking for various things in a relationship: adventure and excitement, passionate romantic love, the opportunity to start a family, or companionship and security. Love isn’t just one thing. It’s not that simple.” 


Talented cast 


There are 22 actors in the cast, several of whom Kincaid has worked with before, including when he directed “Little Women” at SIU Carbondale in December 2022. That list of company members also includes Christopher Jorandy, a props artisan that Kincaid had as a student while at SIU. Kincaid and costume designer Wendi Zea have worked 17 shows together. 


“Rehearsals have been excellent. The level of talent in the room is staggering, and the singing is absolutely glorious,” he said. “We assembled a really great cast for this one.”


MSP tickets available 


Beer and wine will be served at cash only bars in the lobby before performances and during intermission. 

Tickets are available for single performances and can be purchased by phone (618-453-6000), in person at McLeod Theater or Banterra Center box offices, or onlineMcLeod Theater box office hours are 12:30 to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday and one hour before each performance.Banterra Center ticket office hoursare 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.