Mother-daughter team top Chanhassen revival of Hello Dolly!

Michelle Barber and Cat Brindisi.

Michelle Barber and Cat Brindisi.

Cat Brindisi grew up at Chanhassen Dinner Theatres. In fact, her first time onstage was in the weeks before she was born, as her mother, Michelle Barber, performed at the theater.

As a youth, she could watch both of her parents at work at the theater. Her father, Michael Brindisi, is the longtime artistic director of the venue. That included the company's production of Hello, Dolly!, 20 years ago, where her mother played Irene.

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Now, after spending time to build her reputation in the Twin Cities away from her parents, Cat Brindisi is back at Chanhassen in the new production of Hello, Dolly! -- playing Irene.

Even her costume incorporates some of the fabric from her mother's original.

"It's kind of cool. I've seen pictures of it from back then," Brindisi says. "It helped me last night [during rehearsal]. I've struggled a bit with the character. Last night it clicked. I thought of my mom, and the costume helped."

For her part, Barber has moved on to the title role, made famous by Carol Channing.

"It's a challenging show," Barber says. "My character is constantly on, constantly thinking ahead. Who is she going to help out? How will she scrape her money together and make ends meet? Will she marry someone for his money? It's a great character to play."

The musical is about more than giant staircases and fancy costumes. It's based on a play by Thornton Wilder, and has plenty of DNA from that iconic American author. "It has a lot of honest comedy, and you have to work to get to the punchline. It also gets to his ideas about money and taking care of yourself and survival," Barber says.

There's also the set of songs from Jerry Herman, which offer plenty of iconic musical moments (topped off by the title song), while also offering challenges for singers used to the more straightforward songs favored by modern musicals.

The Brindisis let their daughter choose her own path, though they did want her to get a degree before joining their professional ranks (she did). Since then, she has appeared on stages around the Twin Cities, including several shows with Theatre Latte Da (such as Spring Awakening, which also featured her mother in the cast) and with 7th House Theater, a small company started by several like-minded young performers.

With a reputation built, Brindisi found it was time to head to back to the mothership to work with both of her parents at the theater where they now have a stake in the ownership.

"It's fun backstage. When I was younger, I thought, 'I'm working with my mom.' Now my mom is one of my best friends. It's always nice to have trust in your fellow actor," Brindisi says. "They are really supportive without being cocky. Every single night, one or the other will text me."


Hello, Dolly! Through February 21 Chanhassen Dinner Theatres, 501 W. 78th St., Chanhassen $47-$69 show only; $62-$84 with dinner For tickets and more information, call 952.934.1525 or visit online.