The most eagerly anticipated production of the 2016-2017 Broadway season was without doubt Jerry Zaks’ revival of Hello, Dolly! and the hype was justifiably centred around one woman making her triumphant return to the Great White Way. We’re of course talking about the divine Bette Midler.
The first onsale date was the highest grossing in Broadway history and even the mayor of New York City deemed that April 21, 2017 – the day after the official opening of Hello, Dolly! – would be commemorated as “Dolly Day.” Thankfully, the show earned rave reviews and lived up to expectations, picking up a total of four Tony Awards, including “Best Revival of a Musical” and, not surprisingly, “Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Musical” for Ms. Midler.
The musical comedy, which features a book by Michael Stewart with music and lyrics by Jerry Herman, is no stranger to scooping coveted awards. Originally premiering on Broadway in January 1964 at the St. James Theatre, the production won an impressive ten Tony Awards, including “Best Musical” and went on to play for a grand total of 2844 performances. The Bette Midler-led production actually marks the fourth Broadway revival since that storied premiere, beginning previews at the Shubert Theatre on March 15, 2017.
Directed with the elegance and class of a bygone era by Jerry Zaks, the production can be considered a throwback and a good, round of ammunition to combat those purists who cry: “They don’t make ‘em like they used to!” From Santo Loquasto’s Tony-winning costume design to Warren Carlyle’s classic choreography, Hello, Dolly! revels in its own nostalgia and sticks to winning formulas of how to put on a musical comedy by the book. Musical numbers such as “Put On Your Sunday Clothes”, “Before the Parade Passes By”, and the title song bring those crowd-pleasing moments of theatrical spectacle, engulfing the stage with set pieces and every member of the talented ensemble.
Ms. Midler proves herself, yet again, as a master of comic timing and stage presence, with the audience eating from the palm of her hand, and she is surrounded by top-calibre original cast members. David Hyde Pierce steals almost every scene he is featured in as Horace Vandergelder, Kate Baldwin sings like a nightingale as Irene Molloy, Taylor Trensch and Beanie Feldstein provide lashings of comic relief as Barnaby Tucker and Minnie Fay, respectively, and Gavin Creel finally and rightfully earned his first Tony Award for his efforts as Cornelius Hackl.
And the mere fact that two-time Tony winner Donna Murphy takes on duties as the alternate Dolly Levi on Tuesday performances (and selected “on hiatus” dates throughout the run) is a true testament to the star power of Bette Midler.
The musical was also immortalised on film in 1969, starring Barbra Streisand in the leading role, and earned a total of seven Academy Award nominations, including “Best Picture.” It ended up taking home three Oscars, including “Best Music, Score of a Musical Picture.”
On January 20, 2018, Broadway favorites Bernadette Peters and Victor Garber assumed the lead roles of Dolly Levi and Horace Vandergelder in the hit Broadway production, with Ms. Midler and Mr. Hyde Pierce returning for the final six weeks of the Broadway run from July 17 through to August 25, 2018.
(Photos by Julieta Cervantes)