A legend, a known TV star and an iconic musical have all returned to Broadway for a limited engagement before the show closes for good…or until another brave soul decides to revive it. The recent 4-time Tony-Award winning musical revival of Hello, Dolly! opened back in 2017. The show is now getting ready to leave the Shubert Theater, but not before some of the original cast members return to close it…and I consider myself one of the lucky ones. One of the fortunate theater fans who was able to witness this incredible revival. The entire cast has put together a show for the ages and it’s a performance I’ll remember for the rest of my life.
Hello, Dolly! is without a doubt one of the most well-known musicals in the world. The show has been done numerous times from community theater to high school ones and professional productions including the original Broadway run in 1964 which won over 11 Tony awards including one for Best Actress in a Musical for Carol Channing who was the title role. Probably the most well-known version is the movie which featured Barbara Streisand. The story is about Dolly Levi a socialite-turned-matchmaker who lives in New York City. She is both witty and bold but most importantly, meddling. One of her latest clients, Horace Vandergelder, is a “half-a-millionaire” and looking for a wife. A widow herself, she finds herself in love with Mr. Vandergelder and invites him out to the city. Soon her schemes overflow into the lives of Vandergelder’s two clerks, Cornelius Hackl and Barnaby Tucker as they seek adventure and sneak out of work to explore. They stumble upon Irene Molloy, currently trying to be set up by Dolly with Vandergelder, and her associate Minnie Fay. Dolly then begins her biggest scheme of all as she weaves a web of romantic complications to ensure everyone ends up with the one they are mean to be with…including herself.
The show is designed beautifully in the Shubert Theater from the detail oriented and vintage styled set and strikingly fabulous period costumes, both design by Santos Loquasto, who also in turn won a Tony Award for the production. Even from the balcony you can make out the extreme details in the backdrops depicting various scenes in Yonkers and New York along with dressings in Vandergelder shop and Irene Molloy’s hat shop. The show even ambitiously and successfully manages to bring a train on stage which was a pretty spectacular scene to see. The costumes range from casual attire to more formal pieces that are a beautiful spectacle to see. The dresses also flow beautifully with Warren Carlyle lovely choreography which is in turn executed flawlessly by the talented ensemble. The harmonious blend of cast and crew is exactly what theatre is about and it gives me goosebumps just thinking about it.
"Before the parade passes by
I've gotta get in step while there's still time left
I'm ready to move out in front
Life without life has no reason or rhyme left" - Dolly Levi
The production itself earned multiple Tony nominations and wins including Best Revival of a Musical and a Tony for Gavin Creel for Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Musical. Creel, who plays Cornelius Hackl, certainly earned his Tony award with a beautiful voice. His performance is complimented by the ridiculously talented Kate Baldwin who plays Irene Molloy. Baldwin’s performance is certainly not overshadowed by the likes of Midler as she has quite possibly the magnificent high chest belt I’ve ever heard along. Her comedic antics with Molly Griggs, who plays Minnie Faye, are deliciously delightful. Griggs energy to the role of Minnie is refreshing and fun. Charlie Stemp, who plays Barnaby Tucker, has an undeniable charm about him that almost outshines many of the other cast members. The dynamic he has with Griggs kept the audience giggling from the first moment they set eyes on each other on stage. David Hyde Pierce hilariously returns to the stage as a perfect caricature version of the scrooge inspired penny pinching grumpy old man that is Horace Vandergelder.
Bette Midler. The name alone is enough to make many people smile like giddy school children, and I am one of them. Just saying it out loud still gives me goosebumps as I recall what it was like to experience her in person. Never in my life have I seen a performance like this and never before have I seen a performer – yes a performer because Midler does it all – have the audience eating out of the palm of her hand and I believe me when I say I ate an entire Thanksgiving dinner. From the moment she came on stage half way through the opening song, the magic was there. It’s almost like the part of Dolly Levi was written for her as she completely embodies the fast talking, quick witted and brilliant matchmaker. Midler never once drops the speed and attention that part requires whether she’s bouncing from actor to actor, galivanting across the stage with a group of chorus boys or even singing with a single spotlight.
One of the most iconic scenes from this show is the dinner scene halfway through the second act. It’s the grand entrance and triumphed return of Dolly to Harmonia Gardens that makes it so special. As Midler pulled the curtain back at the top of the grand staircase, the audience erupted in another uproarious applause that lasted for what felt like at least 3 minutes. Midler floats down the staircase in the iconic – and honestly should never be changed – red dress, feather headpiece and dazzling jewelry. The moment alone earned her yet another standing ovation in the middle of the show. Midler’s genius performance in this scene left me in stiches and tears of laughter along with multiple moments of wonderment as she effortlessly navigated the scene opposite Pierce without even saying a word. However, above all else, Midler puts heart and a little bit of herself in the role with her expressive eyes and that oh so familiar cheeky grin that we know, recognize and love so much.
Hello, Dolly! itself is not my favorite musical however it holds a special place in so many people’s hearts. Is it an important piece in the history of musical theater? Absolutely. It’s a staple piece that any fan should see whether it’s the movie or a live production, however I actively support and recommend you find a local production to see. The show is charming, entertaining and a classic that deserves to be seen every couple of decades by the masses. This production was the production of the century by including such phenomenal and legendary casting.
Hello, Dolly! plays at the Shubert Theater through August 25, 2017. The National Tour will begin this fall with Betty Buckley playing the title role. For Twin Cities fans, the show will be playing at the Orpheum Theatre April 16-28. Ticket information has not been released. If you’re not in the Twin Cities, click the button below for more information on the national tour.