Joseph Rowntree Theatre Company’s Hello, Dolly! will be their most ambitious show yet

Helen Spencer: Leading the Joseph Rowntree Theatre Company in the role of Dolly Levi in Hello, Dolly!

THE Joseph Rowntree Theatre Company are putting on their Sunday best from tonight until Saturday in Jerry Herman and Michael Stewart’s Broadway classic Hello, Dolly!.

This 1964 musical adaptation of Thornton Wilder’s 1938 farce The Merchant Of Yonkers will be staged by the JoRo’s in-house fundraising company with glitz, glamour and a troupe of tap-dancing waiters in their most ambitious performance to date.

Noted for such musical theatre favourites as It Only Takes A Moment, Put On Your Sunday Clothes and the title song, Hello, Dolly! follows strong-willed widow and self-proclaimed meddling matchmaker Dolly Levi in her wooing of wealthy but tight-fisted Horace Vandergelder, while she spreads joy and confusion among everyone she encounters in 1885 New York.

Premiering on Broadway on January 16 1964 with Carol Channing in the title role, Stewart and Herman’s show played for 2,844 performances, making it – at the time – the longest-running Broadway musical in history.

The show has been revived several times on the New York stage, most recently in 2017 with Bette Midler in the title role, while Barbra Streisand famously starred in Gene Kelly’s 1969 film version.

Playing Dolly for the Joseph Rowntree Theatre Company (JRTC) will be Helen Spencer, a regular in the company’s shows and on the wider York theatre scene, who works as a psychiatrist in the NHS.

Platform to entertain: Hello, Dolly! principals Jamie Benson’s Barnaby Tucker, left, Helen Spencer’s Dolly Levi and Stuart Sellens’s Cornelius Hackl

Hello, Dolly! will be even more special for her, beyond the lead role, because she will be sharing the stage with her two children in their first theatrical performance.

This will be JRTC’s fifth full-scale production, following on from their flash, bang, walloping hit Kipps: The New Half A Sixpence Musical last February, with a continuing focus on producing high-quality, low-budget productions to maximise profits to give every penny straight back to the JoRo.

Taking the reins this time is Kathryn Lay, who steps off the stage to make her JRTC directing debut, alongside her husband Martin Lay as musical director. Both have been performing with the company since its inception in 2017.

“Hello, Dolly! perfectly showcases the company’s diverse and talented members,” says Kathryn. “There’s a large ensemble, which has allowed us to embrace our inclusive ethos, and the variation in roles really plays to everyone’s strengths. It’s a feel-good musical and the cast and creative team are having a wonderful time bringing it to life.

“The Joseph Rowntree Theatre is such a valuable asset for the York community, helping make theatre accessible for wider audiences. So, as well as being treated to a wonderful evening of entertainment, you’ll also be supporting a great cause and helping to play a part in keeping theatre alive in York.”

Joseph Rowntree Theatre Company, Hello, Dolly!, at Joseph Rowntree Theatre, York, February 8 to 11, 7.30pm plus 2.30pm Saturday matinee.Tickets: £15, under 18s, £13, on 01904 501935 or

Joseph Rowntree Theatre Company cast members rehearsing the title number in Hello, Dolly!

Joseph Rowntree Theatre Company’s cast for Hello, Dolly!

Dolly Levi: Helen Spencer

Horace Vandergelder: Alex Schofield

Cornelius Hackl: Stuart Sellens

Irene Molloy: Jennie Wogan-Wells

Barnaby Tucker: Jamie Benson

Minnie Fay: Jennifer Jones

Ambrose Kemper: Jonothan Wells

Ermengarde: Abigail Atkinson

Ernestina: Sophie Cooke

Rudolph: Nick Sephton

Mrs Rose/Ensemble: Vanessa Lee

Judge/Manny/Ensemble: Ben Huntley

Clerk/Ensemble: Lois Cross

Louis/Ensemble: Cameron O’Bryne

Harry/Ensemble: Gary Bateson

Hank/Ensemble: Jack James Fry

Ensemble: Michelle Atkinson; Helen Barugh; Victoria Beale; Pamela Bradley; Ashley Ginter; Lorna Newby; Jennifer Payne; Susanne Perkins; Zoe Sellens; Heather Stead and Jane Woolgar

Production team

Director: Kathryn Lay

Musical director: Martin Lay

Assistant director/choreographer: Lorna Newby

Assistant director: Rosy Rowley

Producer: Stuart Sellens

Stuart Sellens’s Cornelius Hackl, left, and Jamie Benson’s Barnaby Tucker