Reviews: ‘Hello, Dolly!’
Joseph Cervelli, Correspondent 4:16 p.m. ET
May 15, 2017
Yes, there are most definitely some stars where a first name suffices. One of which is Bette Midler. The Divine Miss M whose concerts wowed audiences is now starring (in case you were somewhere other than this planet) in a rousing, though sometimes madcap revival of “Hello, Dolly!” directed by the usually fast paced director Jerry Zaks at the Shubert Theater. Naturally, it is breaking all records.
“Dolly” has always remained one of the most lovable and pleasing shows throughout the years when it first appeared on the scene in 1964 with the inimitable Carol Channing with those saucer wide eyes. Her connection with the audience was real and simply unforgettable. Well, that same excitement comes through the footlights when Midler hits the stage. Yes, there are a few stumbles (raspy voice, sometimes tiring and not always relating fully with other cast members) but it does not matter. She offers a fresh take on this revival. She has taken the role and molded it to make it more of a showcase for her particular flamboyant persona. Both Midler and Dolly Levi possess such larger than life personalities that it works. The curmudgeon shop owner Horace Vandergelder ( David Hyde Pierce) whom she has set her eyes on marrying opens the second act with the cute ditty “Penny in My Pocket” which was cut from the original production and placed back in. Indeed, Midler’s has the entire audience in her own “pocket.”
With one misstep the entire cast glows as they should. Gavin Creel making for an exuberant Cornelius Hackl who along with a peppy Taylor Trensch (Barnaby Tucker) decide to take leave one day as employees of Vandergelder’s feed store and make way to the bright lights of NYC with their sprightly rendition of “Before the Parade Passes By.” Both Creel and especially Trensch are expert comics and when they hide in the millinery store run by Vandergelder’s potential bride the lovely Irene Molly portrayed by angelic singer Kate Baldwin things become a bit overly frantic. Zaks could here take it down a notch. A real find in the supporting cast is the young actress Beanie Feldstein who finds even more charm in Molly’s worker Minnie Fay than I have seen in any other production of this show.
If I had one issue it was with Hyde Pierce who appears to be too wooden as the grumpy Vandergelder. Granted it is not an animated role, but a few years back I saw Tony Sheldon do it at Godspeed, MA, and he brought such spirited humor to the role which is missing in this performance.
Jerry Herman’s score still remains one of the most beautifully melodic and infectious through these many years and that incomparable choreographer Warren Carlyle recreates Gower Champion’s original stunning dance numbers.
The gorgeously colorful costumes and sets are by veteran designer Santo Loquasto who never fails to disappoint.
Still, Bette Midler remains the reason to see this revival. Her comic antics (watching her rejoicing in eating every bit of meat on a turkey leg) is as much fun as is her surprisingly touching rendition of “Before the Parade Passes By.”
During the famed title song number she leans against the wall seemingly out of breath and with a radiant smile sings out “Look at the old gal now.” Indeed.