Over the past few weeks, I've been rehearsing and performing as a member of the orchestra for the East Central School and Community production of Hello, Dolly! The musical is filled with catchy songs, fast and furious dance routines, and hilarious dialogue, but it also has moments of real wisdom that encourage the audience to think deeply about life, love, and wealth.
1. Our loved ones are close to us even in death. Dolly speaks frequently to her late husband Ephraim Levi, acknowledging the depth of their relationship, telling him about her plans, and asking him for a sign of his approval. In the end, she receives her sign and teaches the audience an important lesson about the love that transcends death.
2. Money is supposed to be used for good rather than hoarded. At the beginning of the play, Dolly says to Ephraim, “I'm going to marry Horace Vandergelder for his money and send it circulating among the people like rainwater, the way you taught me.” At the end, after she has indeed received a marriage proposal from Horace, she explains to the audience, “Money, money, money, money, money, Mr. Vandergelder's money. It's like the sun we walk under. It can kill...or cure....The difference between a little money and no money at all is enormous, and that can shatter the world. And the difference between a little money and an enormous amount of money is very slight, and that can shatter the world, too. It's all in how you use it.”
3. Love can be found in the most unlikely situations and with the most unlikely people. Irene Molloy never expected to find love again. Her first husband, Peter Molloy, was her share of true love, she tells her assistant, Minnie. Irene is planning to marry Horace only to get away from the millinery business, and she is only looking for “a bit of adventure” when Cornelius and Barnaby show up in her hat shop. Little does she know that by the end of the day, she would fall in love with the nervous, goofy Cornelius, who professes, along with Irene, that it “only takes a moment to be loved a whole life long.”
4. Even the most cranky and difficult people can and do change when their hearts are touched by another. Horace Vandergelder is an old curmudgeon. He spends much of the play blustering about how people are foolish, looking for “someone steady to cleaning the house” (as Dolly says), and yelling at just about everyone. In the end, though, Dolly has touched his heart and softened it, and he has learned what love means.
5. We learn about ourselves if we take time to reflect on our experiences. Dolly is a very self-confident person who pokes her nose into just about everyone's business, with good intentions, of course. But she also takes time to think about her life. In one of her “conversations” with Ephraim, she talks about how an oak leaf fell out of her Bible, a leaf that she had placed there when he asked her to marry him. She realizes that she is like that old oak leaf, without color and life, as she follows her daily routine without emotion, waiting for something, anything, to happen that will bring her true joy. She vows to “rejoin the human race” and asks Ephraim to give her away. Almost in spite of herself, she ends up finding joy in her relationships with Horace, Cornelius, Irene, Barnaby, and Minnie as she plans for them all to be together and dance at Horace's niece Ermengarde's wedding. Dolly has discovered what life is really all about...love!