Q&A with “Hello, Dolly!” Actress Morgan Kirner

by: Lauren Knight

The national tour of the musical “Hello, Dolly!” arrives in Costa Mesa at Segerstrom Center for the Arts on Jan. 22 for an eight-show run. With the theater approximately five miles from campus and potential student rush tickets for $20, the Tony Award-winning musical about a mischievous matchmaker and her romantic scheming in Yonkers, New York will be a must-see performance. Anticipating the upcoming week, actress Morgan Kirner, currently portraying the role of Ermengarde, sat down to talk about her background in musical theater as well as the “Hello, Dolly!” tour in Costa Mesa.

photo by: Jocelyn Bold Photography

Q: Hi Morgan, how long have you been on tour?

A: We started rehearsals in August, with Aug. 11 being our first day, and then we left New York City on Sept.10, and opened on Oct. 5. So altogether we’ve been out of the city for about five months.

Q: Is this your first national tour/national tour debut?

A: Yeah! This is my first national tour. I was on a production of “The Little Mermaid” in 2013 that started in Papermill Playhouse and then went to a few other theaters after that: CLO, Kansas City Starlight, and straight from TUTS in Houston to the Fox Theatre in Georgia. But this is my first, full national tour.

Q: How did you get started in musical theater?

A: I got started in musical theater because my sisters were involved in musical theater, so I did what my sisters did. They were involved in our community theater, and so the first show that I auditioned for there was “Annie,” and then I played Annie! It was kind of just history from there.

Q: Is there one person or a single event that inspired you to pursue musical theater as a career?

A: Yes. So, my parents took us to a see a lot of shows and I lived closer to Philadelphia so we would go to the Academy of the Arts most frequently. Then I went to go see “Beauty and the Beast” on Broadway, that was part of our vacation we were taking, and the theater had a fire that day so we weren’t able to see the show. We saw “Footloose” instead, and I just became obsessed with the show. I memorized every single word and I still know every single word, and so I think from then on I was like, “Yep, this is exactly what I want to do.” I thought it was so cool that they [the actors] got to do that as a job. I think I was about six then, and I think that the only thing I ever considered doing was working as a nurse or actually as a nun at one point, and that was only because I had seen “Sister Act.”

Q: What is your favorite show you’ve performed in?

A: Well this is definitely in the top, but I also did a production of “A Little Night Music” and I think that is one of my very favorites. I did that my senior year of college at the Huntington Theatre in Boston when I went to the Boston Conservatory. That was in the fall of 2015 and it was just a fantastic cast. I loved the role I played. It was so beautiful. I made a lot of really good friends when I was doing that show and it will always hold a very special place in my heart.

Q: I’m curious, what are some of your dream roles?

A: I would like to play Olive in “25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” and Johanna in “Sweeney Todd.” Those are the two that immediately come to mind, but, honestly, I think I would love to play a role that hasn’t been written yet. I really would love to originate a role, and I’m also a big fan of Liz Callaway so anything Liz Callaway has done is on the list, too. But yes, I would always love to have the opportunity to try on the shoes of somebody’s new character. A friend of mine is in the NYU Musical Theatre writing program and I got a really cool opportunity to workshop one of his projects. Since then I’ve been very interested in trying to bring other people’s work to life. It was so exhilarating!

Q: What tour stop are you looking forward to most?

A: San Diego was one of them, probably San Francisco, and Denver. I’m pretty excited about Denver! Also Boston, because that’s where I went to college.

Q: What are you most excited for “Hello, Dolly!” To bring to cities around the country?

A: This show is pure joy. It makes people happy and I absolutely love looking out into the audience and seeing the smiles on the people’s faces. This show is all about connection and I think anyone who comes to see this show can relate to one of these characters in some way. I know when I saw it on Broadway, I was moved to tears during Dolly’s monologue before “Parade.”

Q. If you could summarize the show in one sentence, how would you describe it?

A: “Hello, Dolly!” is a humanity-connecting, heart-warming, non-stop joy ride of quintessential classic musical theatre. It will leave you laughing until your sides hurt and with a smile on your face and in your heart.

Straight from the Tony Award-winning Broadway revival, Kirner and her wonderful cast bring a piece of classic Golden Age musical theater to Orange County. Catch “Hello, Dolly!” at Segerstrom Center for the Arts “before the parade passes by!”