Bottom line, “Hello, Dolly!” is still a joyous, giddy delight with two-time Tony winner Donna Murphy in Bette Midler’s role — but there’s another bottom line to this star-driven vehicle: the bottom line.
Without the vacationing Divine Miss M, box-office receipts at the Shubert Theater last week totaled $936,603. That’s a healthy take at the till, but it’s also a dramatic $1.4 million drop from previous record-setting weeks.
That dip is no surprise. It’s not that the attendance is poor. It’s that premium tickets selling for $800 aren’t in-demand for the second Mrs. Levi. The production, after all, has been custom-made for Midler — who, like the sterling revival, just won a Tony. TV ads and banners around Times Square simply say: Bette Midler, “Hello, Dolly!” And some just want to see Midler — and why not? She’s the big get and she really is great in the role.
What actress would even dare to step up? Murphy would — and does. She’s center-stage on Tuesdays and during Midler’s time off. Murphy is a star with dazzling comic chops and a voice to match — and she’s giving the gutsiest star turn in town. And, at times, the funniest. The “Passion” and “The King and I” Tony winner finds laughs that Midler actually doesn’t in a hat-shop scene courtesy of some loosey-goosey shimmying. Murphy’s encounter with dumplings — all orgasmic shudders and squeals — brings dizzy bliss that money can’t buy.
Still, the fate of “Hello, Dolly!” down the road when Midler leaves the run remains up in the air. Tickets are on sale through Jan. 14, 2018. Is there a star of Midler’s magnitude who’ll step up? That’s the $936,603 question.