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SHOW OF THE WEEK

Hello, Dolly!


Photo by Julieta Cervantes
Bette Midler in Hello, Dolly!
Bette Midler in Hello, Dolly!
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As we eagerly await the first major Broadway openings of the 2017-2018 Broadway season, we thought it was about high time we celebrated one of the crown jewels – and probably the most talked about production – of last season. So, put on your Sunday clothes, folks, because Hello, Dolly! is finally our #ShowOfTheWeek!

Simply put, Hello, Dolly! is a nostalgia-infused, perfectly-crafted Broadway revival speak. As Bette Midler descends the staircase of Santo Loquasto’s exquisite Harmonia Gardens set, wearing that now infamous red dress and feathered headdress, the audience cannot help but nod in gleeful agreement that this global star is back exactly where she belongs – on the Broadway stage. Let’s make no mistake about it, the show is the epitome of a star vehicle, but it is a vehicle fit for the Queen herself (Bette or Elizabeth II, take your pick)… From the moment the overture strikes its first note (Oh, why can’t every modern Broadway musical include an overture???) to Ms. Midler’s final bow, Broadway veteran director Jerry Zaks has lovingly poured the oldest ingredients in the book of musical comedy into his production, stirred them well with Warren Carlyle’s delightful choreography, and has produced a throwback to the glory days of yesteryear. Any ageing Broadway aficionado that sighs: “Well, they don’t make them like they used to…” clearly hasn’t seen this Hello, Dolly! yet!

The story of the late-19th-century matchmaker Dolly Gallagher Levi, who sets out to snag the Yonkers-based “half-a-millionaire” Horace Vandergelder as a husband of her own, is a simple tale. The subplot of Vandergelder’s disgruntled yet overwhelmingly charming employees Cornelius Hackl and Barnaby Tucker, who shut up shop in hopes of an adventure in the Big Apple, adds another layer of comedy gold to the book. The latter storyline sees a blossoming romance between Hackl and Irene Molloy (initially intended to Vangergelder) and her sidekick Minnie Fay to Tucker. Supporting Midler in a once-in-a-lifetime-dream-casting as Dolly is David Hyde Pierce as Horace, who threatens to steal every scene he is involved in with buckets of grouchy, comic panache. Gavin Creel oozes an unassuming charisma as Cornelius, while Kate Baldwin shows off her heavenly vocal range as Irene. Sidekicks Barnaby and Minnie are expertly played with on-the-button comic timing by Taylor Trensch and Beanie Feldstein, respectively. And a special mention must go to Tony nominee Jennifer Simard, who proves her hilarious character acting skills once again in the small, but memorable role of the shrill Ernestina.

Santo Loquasto’s costumes are as glorious as they are colourful. Retro-Fashion enthusiasts will gawp as the parade passes by and as the cast puts on their Sunday clothes. And his scenic design appears so elegantly simple at times, until a train or a horse-drawn carriage suddenly appears from the wings. Goodness knows how they all fit backstage!

But back to the divine Miss M… Although Ms. Midler perhaps no longer matches contemporaries like Ms. Baldwin in terms of pure singing range and ability, she conveys each number of Jerry Herman’s timeless score with a twinkle in her eye and is a master of storytelling. When she joins the young and gifted ensemble during the big choreography numbers and subsequently slumps down the arches of the proscenium in exhaustion, we’re not entirely sure whether she is acting or not... and that only intensifies the laughter from the audience. She has us in the palm of her hand throughout – even during the prolonged scene towards the end of Act II in which we are forced to watch her devilishly devour a meal. Bon appetit, Bette!

Click here for tickets to Hello, Dolly! for performances through to July 15, 2018 at Broadway's Shubert Theatre.

- by Tom Millward

Production Details
Venue: Shubert Theatre
Genre: Musical Comedy
Previewed: 15 Mar 2017
Opened: 20 Apr 2017
Music & Lyrics: Jerry Herman
Book: Michael Stewart
Director: Jerry Zaks

Synopsis: At the turn of the 20th century, all of New York City is excited because widowed but brassy Dolly Gallagher Levi (Midler) is in town. Dolly makes a living primarily through matchmaking and is currently seeking a wife for grumpy Horace Vandergelder, the well-known half-a-millionaire, but it becomes clear that Dolly intends to marry Horace herself.

Cast: Bette Midler (Dolly Gallagher Levi), David Hyde Pierce (Horace Vandergelder), Gavin Creel (Cornelius Hackl), Kate Baldwin (Irene Molloy), Taylor Trensch (Barnaby Tucker), Beanie Feldstein (Minnie Fay), Will Burton (Ambrose Kemper), Melanie Moore (Ermengarde) and Jennifer Simard (Ernestina)

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