Zimmerman High theatre offers doses of “Dolly” and dancing

“Hello, Dolly!” is performed by Brenna Lesnar and a chorus of waiters including (from left) Cassy Boucher, Autumn Rasmussen, Katie Halter, Sophie Bishop, Maranda Berndt, Justin Canterbury, Alexa Mylaert, and Marissa Luing. (Photo by Bruce Strand)


by Bruce Strand, Arts editor

While watching a dress rehearsal of Zimmerman’s fall play “Hello, Dolly!” move along Tuesday it started to dawn on this reviewer that there was a lot of dancing in this play, far more than we’ve ever seen in a ZHS production.

Actors are  dancing in the streets, dancing in the hat shops, dancing in the cafes, spicing up this classic gay nineties tale of a cheery, persuasive matchmaker — Brenna Lesnar in the title role — who finally decides to manipulate one chap to the alter for herself.

The play opens Friday evening. See schedule below.

All these waltzes, polka’s, jazz dances, where did all that come from?

Then comes the knockout dance scene — a tap-dancer — late in the final act. A young lady not previously seen bursts unto view, criss-crossing the stage, tap-dancing like a pro, gracefully kicking her tray with both feet, in the midst of a cafe scene of dancing waiters, then exits as peppily as she emerged, an exhibition sure to draw applause.

Amber Nagengast, ZHS senior, tap-dances during the cafe scene, a performance added to utilize her talents as PS Dance Studio veteran. (Photo by Bruce Strand)

The tap-dancer is Amber Nagengast, and it turns out she’s responsible for all the dancing.

“A senior from the school is our choreographer,” said director Jon Palashewski. “She’s been in dance for 12 years. We just decided Monday to put her in the play herself. She came up with that (tap routine) just last night.”

Palasheski said original plans were for just a little dancing, but as they went along, it seemed like a scene here and a scene there would be enhanced by another dance and they had just the person to coach the other kids.

“I’ve been with PS Dance Studio in Elk River for 12 years,” said Nagengast, “and I had one year on dance team. A lot of my friends are in the play, so I got interested. It’s my senior year, and I thought maybe I should try something different. So I asked them if they were in need of a choreographer.”

Nagengast imparted her skills in waltzes, polka’s and jazz dance for several weeks of rehearsals while keeping tap in her pocket, until Monday’s practice, four days before opening night.

“Tapping is my favorite thing to do,” she grinned. “I’m glad I got to do it in the play.”

Brenna Lesnar as Dolly in a scene with Carly Nelson, Deanna
Schulz, Autumn Rasmussen, and Justin Canterbury. (Photo by Bruce Strand)


Along with dancing there are, of course, classic Broadway songs such as “Elegance,” “So Long, Dearie,” “It Takes a Woman,” and the title song, “Hello, Dolly!,” certainly one of best show tunes ever written.

Lesnar, a senior in her first lead role, has the happy chore of singing such lines as “So, bridge that gap, fellas, find me and empty lap, fellas” to adoring waiters responding “You’re still glowin,’ you’re still crowin,’ you’re still goin’ strong,” although the chorus isn’t quite as deep-voiced as we’re accustomed to because some of the roles had to be filled by girls.

Ryan Olson as Horace deals with Sam Jorgenson as Emengarde, his teen daughter who has fits of crying as she pursues finding a mate. (Photo by Bruce Strand)

“I really like the music. They are classic songs that everyone knows,” said Lesnar. “It’s an enjoyable show to watch with all your friends and family.”

Lesnar said she wasn’t very familiar with “Hello, Dolly,” a Broadway and movie hit of the 1960’s, until she got this role and checked out the movie with Barbra Streisand playing her character, Dolly Levi, adding, “We took a different rout than the movie, though.”

Ryan Olson plays big-voiced, blustery Horace Vandergelder, the widower whom Dolly pretends to be fixing up while intending to reel him in herself. The cast also includes Carly Nelson (Ernestina), Vince Snyder (Ambrose), Sam Jorgenson (Emengarde), Chet Peterson (Cornelius), Austin Michael (Barnaby), Sylvia Michels (Minnie), Laenea Halter (Irene) and Maranda Berndt (Rudolpha).

The chorus has Autumn Rasmussen, Aiden Estridge, Justin Canterbury, Andrew Vey, Sophie Bishop, Kelsey Luby, Berndt, Nelson, Deanna Schulz, Alexa Mylaert, Marissa Luing, Cassy Boucher, Katie Halter, and Andrea Ruether.

Brenna Lesnar as Dolly coaches two young couples in the art of dancing, played by Sylvia Michels and Austin Michael (back) and Laenea Halter and Chet Peterson (at right). (Photo by Bruce Strand)


“The show is an energetic, entertaining show for the whole family,” said Palashewski, “with familiar, upbeat music, memorable characters, lively dancing, and a funny, heart-warming plot.  I have a number of students who are real leaders this year with a passion for drama so we’ve been able to accomplish much in a short time. ”

Along with Nagangast, other seniors have leadership tasks are Abbi Copic (make-up and hair), Jessie Freeman (set design) and Kayla Spelios (stage manager). Assistant directors are Laura Berghuis,  Amy Cunningham (set design and hair) and Carisa Halter (costumes and makeup).

“Practices have been fun, and we’re still not tired of the music or the story,” said Palashewski. “That’s saying a lot at this point in the game. We hope to have great crowds this weekend.”

At Zimmerman High School

Friday, Nov. 16, at 7 p.m.
Saturday, Nov. 18, at 7 p.m.
Sunday, Nov. 16, at 2 p.m.

Tickets $6, or $4 for students and senior citizens

Dancing in this scene are (from left) Katie Halter, Justin Canterbury, Marissa Luing, and Sophie Bishop. (Photo by Bruce Strand)