David Tinney, prolific Utah Valley director/choreographer and the theater department’s Artist in Residence, made his directorial debut at the Hale Center Theatre in West Valley on June 13 with the classic musical, Hello, Dolly!

Tinney’s resume is long and impressive. He’s been the Artistic Director for Provo Theater Company, taught at BYU, and directed and choreographed at Tuacahn, Orem’s Hale, and Sundance. At UVU, he directed Holiday Night Live in 2007, Robber Bridegroom in 2008, and Chess in January of this year.

Tinney brings a rare flavor the shows he directs – despite 20 years of directing experience, he still knows how to bring a youthful perspective. Also, by acting as both director and choreographer of many musicals, he keeps the show’s movement fluid. “He gets the whole show,” said David Weekes, who plays Horace Vandergelder in one of the two casts of Hello, Dolly! “The movement and the blocking and the choreography all works together because it’s all his concept.”

Hello, Dolly! is a classic warhorse musical, but it has managed to avoid the bad reputation that other classics like Oklahoma! and Annie Get Your Gun have earned. You may already know the story, but the music and the endearing characters are bound to keep the audience interested.

Jennifer Parker Hohl, who plays Dolly across from Weekes, told of a speech Tinney gave in their first rehearsal. He talked about watching a Discovery Channel show about roller coasters. When the host was asked what his favorite roller coaster was, he said it was the old wooden one at Coney Island. Tinney likened this to the old white roller coaster at Lagoon. “That’s what Hello, Dolly! is,” Hohl remembered Tinney saying, “It’s the old white roller coaster at Lagoon. It’s a great ride, and it gives the same feeling of Americana and the boardwalk and hot dogs. It’s main street Disneyland.”

After working on dozens of classic musicals, Tinney espoused a go-to ideology. “This is my mantra, which I adopted from some well loved directors and teachers. Just tell the story, everything else is frosting. Choreography, costumes, set, and scenery are just frosting. They must serve the story. If it doesn’t tell the story, get rid of it.”

However, his productions are far from cold readings with no set or costumes. He has incorporated some new and interesting design themes into Hello, Dolly! In the script, Dolly Levi holds one-sided conversations with her dead husband. At one point she speaks to him about how she was reading her Bible, and out fell a dried pressed oak leaf. She found the leaf on the day she met her husband, but it’s now colorless and desolate.

This became the main theme for the costumes and scenery of the musical – in the beginning, Dolly’s costumes are neutral and somewhat lifeless, like the oak leaf without love to nourish it. As her romance with Horace blossoms, so does her wardrobe. “The driving element of the show was to go from this beautiful but lifeless dried leaf and blossom through the show as she finds love in her life,” Tinney said. Floral motifs can also be found throughout the rest of the costumes and set.

There is one UVU student in the cast of Hello, Dolly!, Carrie Joslin who plays Minnie Fay. Joslin took a musical theater class from Tinney last year.

“(Tinney) is a wonderful teacher. You can tell he teaches for a living because he says things that are so insightful that you don’t always get from a director,” said Hohl. His experience as a teacher has greatly affected his directorial style. Instead of nitpicking details and assuming dictatorial command, Tinney will let the actors fill in some blanks on their own. “In a rehearsal Dave (Weekes) asked (Tinney) ‘Do I have a tie in this scene?’ and Tinney just replied, ‘Do you?’ “

Tinney is currently in rehearsals directing The Fantastiks, a UVU production in coordination with Sundance Outdoor Theater. “It’s an amazing cast – we have a really nice representation of students – two from UVU, two from BYU, members of the community, a child actor, and one professional actor is coming in. So it’s a really nice blend,” Tinney said.

What: Hello, Dolly!

When: Now through August 1
Monday-Saturday at 7:30 p.m.
Saturday at 12:30 p.m. and 4 p.m.
Occasional weekdays at 4 p.m.

Where: Hale Center Theatre, 3333 South Decker Lake Drive, West Valley City

Price: $15-$26

Tickets: Available online at http://www.halecentretheatre.org, via telephone at (801) 984-9000 or at the Hale Centre Theatre box office