Hello, Dolly!, New York — Bette Midler stars in high-spirited fun

Financial Times
Hello, Dolly!, New York — Bette Midler stars in high-spirited fun
by: Max McGuinness
April 21, 2017



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If you look up “Broadway musical” in a dog-eared theatrical dictionary, the description is bound to sound like Hello, Dolly! A high-kicking chorus line? Catchy tunes? Frocks galore? Jerry Herman and Michael Stewart’s 1964 extravaganza about a late 19th-century New York “marriage broker” ticks all the boxes. Throw in a barn-storming performance by Bette Midler as the titular Dolly and you’ve got an unstoppable juggernaut of old-fashioned schmaltz and star power. Sample the FT’s top stories for a week You select the topic, we deliver the news. Select topic Enter email addressInvalid email Sign up By signing up you confirm that you have read and agree to the terms and conditions, cookie policy and privacy policy. Jerry Zaks’s staging sticks resolutely to that familiar formula and eschews any trace of directorial innovation. Midler similarly offers up a blend of unflagging ebullience and eyebrow-cocking wit that is rooted in the tradition of boisterous comic heroines such as Doris Day and Ginger Rogers (who played the same part). Her magnetic stage presence duly compensates for a singing voice that displays limited range and occasionally sounds a bit tired. Playing against type, David Hyde Pierce (who was Niles in Frasier) provides a worthy foil as Horace Vandergelder, the gruff “half-millionaire” shopkeeper destined despite his best efforts to be matched with the veteran matchmaker. On the night I attended, Pierce also adroitly recovered from a lengthy mid-scene hiatus enforced by technical difficulties. Among a well-drilled ensemble, Gavin Creel and Taylor Trensch stand out for their Laurel and Hardyesque rapport as Vandergelder’s two clerks Cornelius Hackl and Barnaby Tucker. It all adds up to a slick yet somewhat hollow package that cries out for a smidgen of pathos amid over two hours of relentless merriment. That lack of counterpoint is particularly noticeable during a climactic scene inside a faintly pretentious restaurant midway through Act II. For what seems like an eternity, waiters and diners circulate with total fluency in a bravura display of choreography, never missing a beat. One longs for someone to drop a plate. All obstacles to happiness and romance are similarly surmounted here with a bit too much ease. Hello, Dolly! nonetheless delivers a potent dose of high-spirited fun. Repeated mid-performance standing ovations suggest many theatregoers will find that to be the perfect tonic. Others may feel as if they have just eaten an entire bag of marshmallows.

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