Stage Door: Hello, Dolly!
Fern Siegel, Contributor
05/01/2017 02:09 pm ET | Updated 13 hours ago
Hello, Dolly! is a warhorse musical — great score, great story, great costumes. But this Broadway incarnation has something more — a force of nature. Bette Midler as Dolly Gallagher Levi, the matchmaker supreme, is heaven-sent.
Now at the Sam S. Schubert Theater, Hello, Dolly! is surpassing all records.
Not just the $40 million in advance sales, but in Midler’s glorious return to the musical stage. (She made her debut in Fiddler on the Roof in 1967, following up a few years later with Clams on the Half Shell Revue. On the dramatic front, she starred in the solo I’ll Eat You Last: A Chat With Sue Mengers.)
From the moment the Divine Miss M appears, the audience is jazzed. And they remain in that state of ecstasy throughout her performance. This is not Carol Channing’s Dolly or Barbra Streisand’s Dolly, two of the best-known adaptations. This is Midler’s Dolly, delivered with a Sophie Tucker-like wink and a nod that has endeared her to fans for decades.
Best of all, the show’s pacing is just right – director Jerry Zaks keeps the action amusing, rather than dated, aided by Warren Carlyle’s lively choreography. The tight cast is clearly enjoying themselves. And why not?
Based on the Thornton Wilder play, set in late-19th century New York, the story is charming. It focuses on the marital desires of “half-a-millionaire” Horace Vandergelder (David Hyde Pierce). He wants a wife and employs Dolly, a veritable jack-of-all-trades, to secure him one.
The rumor: He will propose to Mrs. Irene Molloy (Kate Baldwin). But Dolly has a secret plan — to snag the rich curmudgeon for herself. Widow of the late, beloved Ephraim Levi, she is weary of financial struggles. And while, she notes ruefully, it won’t be a love match, they will be content.
And that’s part of the Hello, Dolly! template: We need love and companionship to be happy. The plural includes Vandergelder’s two assistants, Cornelius (Gavin Creel) and Barnaby (Taylor Trensch). They long for an adventure with eligible women — and find it with Molloy and Minnie Fay (Beanie Feldstein in a lovable comic turn).
Love is in the air — and each night, audiences enjoy their own romance with the show.
The performances are uniformly wonderful: Baldwin has a beautiful voice, Creel and Trensch are perfect as rubes with heart, while Hyde Pierce hits the right note of bachelor exasperation and vulnerability.
Much as she did decades ago, Midler has taken Broadway by storm. Jerry Herman’s glorious score and Bette Midler are a perfect match.