In an era of radically modern musicals, Albert Einstein High School holds its head high in its production of the classic "Hello, Dolly!" with its sentimental theme and large-scale numbers. The energetic piece demands much of its performers, but not much of its audience, allowing the average theatergoer the pleasures of a night of lively and impressive entertainment.

"Hello, Dolly!" has been a part of American theater since its 1964 debut, produced by David Merrick. The piece tells the story of an ambitious matchmaker, Dolly Levi, who egocentrically rearranges the emotions of her acquaintances to provide herself with a wealthy husband, Horace Vandergelder.

There are also numerous side romances throughout the musical as a result of Dolly's uncanny abilities to create scenarios that -- surprise, surprise -- all work out for everyone in the end.

Only one thing can be said of Einstein's production last weekend: When the star shines, the entire production succeeds. The leading role of Dolly Levi, played by senior Ariel Sims, requires not only a strong talent that includes experience in theater, but also a stage presence that cannot be taught.

Sims excels at portraying her character's independence and ambition, and adds a style that makes the character all her own. Hands down, Sims steals the show, especially with her famed walk down the staircase in Act 2.

Other strong performances include senior Rob Tebow's portrayal of Horace Vandergelder, an aging man of wealth and power looking for a wife to share in his success. He and the other leading performers, including Carly Neely as Irene Molloy, are extremely gifted vocally.

Freshman Phuoc Nguyen as Vandergelder's employee, Barnaby Tucker, deserves special credit for his spectacular abilities as an all-around performer. Whether singing, dancing or speaking, Nguyen remained amazingly enthusiastic, along with his cohort, senior Daniel Kolko, who played Cornelius Hackl. Both Kolko and Nguyen displayed unbounded energy and talent that overrode slight weaknesses in vocal ability.

However, not as much can be said for the singing and dancing ensemble. Although the production's choreography and blocking is strong throughout every number, improvements in the volume and enthusiasm of the cast would greatly improve the overall quality of the show.

The high school orchestra demonstrated high quality in accompaniment, but often drowned out the not-so-lively cast.

Sara Blackwell

Magruder High School

"Hello Dolly!" will be performed at 7:30 p.m. tomorrow and Saturday at Albert Einstein High School. For more information, call 301-962-1028.