Elegance and refinement – that is what matchmaker Dolly Gallagher Levi is all about, in the classic Broadway musical, “Hello, Dolly!”

And that’s what this sweet, romantic, nostalgic show is all about, in a magnificent, deeply felt new production at The Black Box Theatre in downtown Moline, running through June 10th.

“Hello, Dolly” is a 1964 musical with lyrics and music by Jerry Herman and a book by Michael Stewart, based on Thornton Wilder‘s 1938 farce The Merchant of Yonkers, which Wilder revised and retitled The Matchmaker in 1955. Though director and set designer Lora Adams has trimmed it to a 10-member cast (of five couples), she retains both her own and the musical’s unerring sense of exceptional taste, sensitivity, and magnetic emotion.

Shelley Cooper, left, stars in the title role of “Hello, Dolly,” with Tristan Tapscott, Jacqueline Isaacson, Mukupa Lungu and Roger Pavey, Jr.

The Black Box may only be a 60-seat theater, with a long and narrow stage, but it consistently is huge in the size of the heart that emanates from that magical space.

“Dolly” is no exception (full disclosure: I was the emergency fill-in rehearsal accompanist for the first two weeks of just a one-month rehearsal schedule). It’s transcendent magic.

They say a majority of a stage director’s job is casting, and Adams has perfectly cast this chamber version of “Dolly,” which manages to perfectly to tell the story of the search for love, adventure and satisfaction in 1890-era New York.

The musical follows the story of Dolly Levi, a strong-willed matchmaker (as well as instructor of dance, guitar and mandolin, an attorney and spreader of manure) as she travels to Yonkers, New York, to find a match for the miserly “well-known unmarried half-a-millionaire” Horace Vandergelder.

“Hello, Dolly!” features Jacqueline Isaacson, left, as Irene, Doug Kutzli as Horace, and Mukupa Lungu as Minnie.

New York City is excited because widowed, brassy Dolly Levi (played by Barbra Streisand in the 1969 film version, and here the equally commanding, poignant Shelley Cooper) is in town. Dolly makes a living through matchmaking and other sidelines. She is seeking a wife for grumpy Horace (a matchless Doug Kutzli), but it becomes clear that Dolly intends to marry Horace herself.

Dolly wants to send Horace’s money circulating among people like rainwater (and the metaphor of manure is it doesn’t do any good unless it’s spread around to help things grow), the way her late husband Ephraim taught her.

The breathtakingly gorgeous Jerry Herman score features “Put On Your Sunday Clothes,” “Ribbons Down My Back,” “Before the Parade Passes By,” “Elegance,” “It Only Takes A Moment,” and, of course, the title number.

The original musical ran for 2,844 performances on Broadway with Carol Channing in the title role, and earned 10 Tonys. At the time, it was the longest-running Broadway musical.

The new production features (L-R) Mukupa Lungu, Jacqueline Isaacson, Shelley Cooper, Roger Pavey and Tristan Tapscott.

In addition to the fabulous Cooper (who simply dominates in the role) and Kutzli (whose rich, friendless and bitter character echoes his past credits playing a certain  Scrooge), the Black Box cast features Tristan Tapscott as Cornelius Hackl (the same role he played in Music Guild’s 2012 version), Jacqueline Isaascon as Irene Malloy, Roger, Pavey, Jr. as Barnaby Tucker, Mukupa Lungu as Minnie Fae with Lucy Dlarmini, Robert Gregory, Jennifer Cook Gregory, and Tyler Henning.

Looking for adventure and romance

The comedy and the tension of the plot meet when co-workers and best buds Barnaby (a wide-eyed 17-year-old) and Cornelius (a disillusioned but hopeful 33-year-old) leave their posts at Horace’s hay and feed store in Yonkers for glamorous Manhattan. Horace has left to a meet a potential mate, widow Irene Molloy (Isaacson), who owns a hat shop there, and they all end up there.

Jacqueline Isaacson in “Hello, Dolly!”

“It Takes a Woman” reveals the strength of the men’s voices in this cast. Tapscott excels in a role he has made a trademark over many area shows – a harried, nerdy, frustrated man, eternally looking for the silver lining.

He and Pavey make an ideal, lovely pair of guys seeking fun and romance in the big city. Tapscott pledges that in New York, they’re going to have the time of their lives – get arrested and not leave until they both have kissed a girl (presumably not the same one). Pavey seems even more excited to see a huge stuffed whale in a museum.

Dancing in “Dolly” are Mukupa Lungu, left, Roger Pavey, Jacqueline Isaacson and Tristan Tapscott.

Among the musical’s clever lines, Tapscott sings, “See it glisten, Barnaby; listen, Barnaby” (later Herman rhymes “the well-bred agree” with “pedigree” – nice!!).

Tapscott’s ringing voice and boundless enthusiasm capture Cornelius’s sense of excitement and anticipation, even before they set foot in Manhattan.

The boys meet their match in Molloy’s shop, with the cute, bubbly pair of Isaacson as the flirty, cunning and calculating Irene and her more innocent friend Minnie (Mukupa Lungu). Both dazzle with their wide, bright smiles.

Isaacson, a 2023 Augustana College grad, sings “Ribbons Down My Back.”

Isaacson’s bewitching ballad, “Ribbons Down My Back” is beautiful and coquettish. Irene also wants adventure and in her independent, feminist streak, she tells Minnie she wants men to get heated up before she drops them cold. When we see how Irene and Cornelius share life visions, we can tell they’ll connect and end up together.

One of many idyllic scenes is where Dolly teaches Cornelius to dance, and while Tapscott says he has no sense of rhythm, he quickly learns a simple waltz and his nervousness turns to boundless joy and confidence. Pavey also becomes an excited dancer (though not with Tapscott’s skills).

Before the terrific, rousing first act closer, “Before the Parade Passes By,” Cooper delivers an emotional monologue about re-joining the human race, and asking her late husband to give her away. You can really feel her connection to Ephraim throughout the show.

The show must go on

After the Act II opener (and theme) “Elegance,” the well-known title song is pure joy. Cooper is clearly having a great time (and so are we), and it was all the more extraordinary in the Saturday matinee I saw. The Black Box is using pre-recorded accompaniment for the first time, and it happened to cut out during “Hello, Dolly” but Cooper (ever the pro) didn’t miss a bit, carrying on a cappella with the rest of the cast.

Augustana student Mukupa Lungu as Minnie.

The audience sang along, clapped along and the cast continued to have us in the palm of their hands. Another highlight is the sumptuous, luxurious love ballad, “It Only Takes a Moment,” centering on Irene and Cornelius. They clearly worship each other.

Tapscott and Isaacson share “It Only Takes a Moment.” (Clearly, Robert Gregory as the judge is moved as well.)

When Tapscott sings, “I’ve lost so many things,” that line takes on unique weight (in light of his real-life circumstances), but when the couple sways and sings together, it’s heaven on earth.

What we called the finale “Hello, Dolly” mega-mix closes the show, with several reprises, an exactly right production applies on the icing on its delicious cake.

Do not miss this tasty, touching theatrical dessert. Kudos also to fellow cooks C.J. Parker as music director and Ballet Quad Cities dancer Madeleine Rhodes as choreographer. The show winds up this Thursday through Saturday at 7:30 p.m., at 1623 5th Ave. Tickets are $10, available at the BBT website HERE.