Why Kate says: 'Hello, WALL-E!'
I F you're a fan of musicals – and Kate Williams is a fan of musicals – you know at least a bit of the music to Hello, Dolly! almost as a matter of course. But for Kate, who plays the title role in the Nottingham Operatic Society production coming to Nottingham Playhouse, her knowledge of the iconic musical and subsequent Barbra Streisand film came to her in an oddly patchy way.
"I knew some of them from seeing the show some friends did a long time ago at Carlton Operatic Society," Kate says. And the rest?
The rest comes from her son's DVD of WALL-E.
As in, the 2008 animated family film about a plucky robot who lives in a rubbish-covered earth far in the future.
Business Cards From Only £10.95 Delivered www.myprint-247.co.ukView details
Contact: 01858 468192
Valid until: Friday, May 31 2013
If animated films about strangely doe-eyed robots aren't your thing, it's worth noting that in the film WALL-E the robot has an old fashioned VCR with one tape.
A tape of Hello, Dolly! highlights.
And so it was that the woman tasked with playing Dolly recognised show tunes she would need to learn as "that one from WALL-E".
As the show gets ready to take to the stage, Kate is now quite a bit more familiar with the material. And really, it's not surprising that a show like Hello, Dolly! would worm its way into some surprising bits of popular culture. It's one of the more infectious musicals of the last half century – and Kate reckons she's playing a unique heroine.
Dolly's really funny," Kate says. "She's a bit of a cad, really. She's running rings on everybody and manipulating them all to get what she wants.
"You wouldn't want to cross her. She's scary."
Set in the 1890s, Hello, Dolly! introduces Dolly Levi as a straight-talking widow who makes a living in all sorts of ways, though largely through matchmaking. She's in New York to sort out a few problems – mostly, to find a wife for curmudgeonly "half a millionaire" Horace Vandergelder. Although this time, she plans on making herself that wife.
What follows is two acts of comically interwoven subplots surrounding people trying to find love. And sprinkled in liberally throughout are a collection of timeless show tunes.
"She's really good fun," Kate says of the character."Whatever she says, there's always a double meaning."
Dolly has an underlying sadness – she's lonely and misses her husband, and she has to support herself doing odd jobs. Everything has something underlying about what she wants and what she's going to sort out for other couples.
And yet, it touches on these serious, adult themes without lurching into melancholy.
"It's a cracking show, it really is," she says. "There's nothing depressing, upsetting, scary."
It also crackles along at breakneck speed. Normally, you have the main story and the backstory. Not here.
"It doesn't work like that," Kate says. "They're all interwoven."
Nottingham Operatic also has an interesting backstory for the musical. The society does a big theatre musical every year. For 128 years, the society has gone to the Theatre Royal for that.
This year, for the first time, they moved to the Playhouse.
Last year's musical was Fiddler On The Roof. Kate describes it as a bittersweet scene – but also an exciting one, with people talking about moving up the road next year.
"We all knew it was our last one," she says. "The last night of Fiddler was quite hard – but exciting, because lots of us had performed at the Playhouse (with other groups). It's exciting because it's such a nice bunch of people up there."
With the Theatre Royal's more classical Victorian design, actors can feel set back from the audience. Not so on the Playhouse stage.
"It's a really lovely theatre to perform in because you're so on top of everybody," Kate says.
That works particularly well with a character such as Dolly.
"I get lots of moments of nodding and winking and talking to the audience."
It's not the sort of play that makes it difficult to engage with the audience. Particularly because the songs get them bopping along straightaway.
"Honestly," Kate says, "everybody knows Hello, Dolly!."