Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Review of "Hello, Dolly"

The national tour of Hello, Dolly!, which opened at The Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts in Hartford last night, is full of glamour, razz-ma-tazz, a classic Jerry Herman score, and buoyant and thoroughly engaging performances.

This decidedly old-school musical comedy was given new life on Broadway two seasons back in a staging that starred The Divine Miss M, Bette Midler.  The iridescent sheen from that production radiates throughout the current tour with Broadway veteran Carolee Carmello sparkling in the role of Dolly Levi.

Hello, Dolly! tells the story of a brash yenta type character, Dolly Levi, who has been hired by the gruff, cantankerous half-millionaire Horace Vandergelder to match him up with a suitable bride.  Dolly, though, has other plans.  Instead of the intended young, pretty Irene Molloy, she has her own eyes set on the businessman.  Meanwhile, as the irascible Yonkers entrepreneur heads to New York City to meet his prearranged wife, his two clerks, Barnaby and Cornelius, decide the time is ripe for their own excitement and head off to the big city for adventure and, possibly, romance.  By the end of the musical cupid’s arrow has targeted all for the proverbial happy ending.

The celebrated score by the acclaimed composer Jerry Herman overflows with one memorable song after another.  Just a handful would satiate an audience’s eagerness for tuneful, hummable compositions.  But here, every song, even the lesser-known numbers, are a pure listening and toe-tapping delight.  The many gems include “It Takes a Woman,” “Put on Your Sunday Clothes,” ‘Before the Parade Passes By,” and the title number, “Hello, Dolly!”

The cast is first-rate, led by the spirited performance of Carolee Carmello.  Any production of Hello, Dolly! is totally dependent on the actress playing Dolly Levi.  Ms. Carmello, a seasoned professional of over a dozen Broadway musicals, possesses the flair and panache to more than carry the show.  She is charismatic and wily as she commands the stage, clearly enjoying her moment in the spotlight.  John Bolton’s Horace Vandergelder, with longish hair and bushy moustache, more than holds his own in scenes with Ms. Carmello.  The actor, another veteran of the Broadway musical stage, is appropriately boorish and ego-centric.  He also demonstrates keen comic timing that enlivens every occasion he is on stage.  The golden voiced Analisa Leaming as Irene Malloy endows her character with an independent minded attitude mixed with a wistful, loving glint.  Daniel Beeman is an exuberant Cornelius Hackl, fumbling and bumbling on the road to romance.  Sean Burns as Barnaby Tucker and Chelsea Cree Groen as the smitten millinery employee Minnie Fay are high-spirited with a youthful enthusiasm and ardor. 

Jerry Zaks, a multiple Tony Award winning director, has taken the war horse of a musical and injected an invigorating twinkle into the show.  The storyline is old-fashioned, at best, but he breathes new life into the musical by keeping the pacing brisk and refreshing.  Having an outstanding troupe of actors and actresses doesn’t hurt. 

Warren Caryle puts his own mark on the original Gower Champion choreography.  The production numbers are vigorously executed with an almost fearless audaciousness.  The dancers soar and strut through high-stepping routines mixed in with lively promenades.  The Act II showstopper, “The Waiters’ Gallop,” at the Harmonia Gardens Restaurant, with waiters hustling and bustling on and off-stage with an energetic and athletic prowess, is a sight to behold.

Santo Loquasto’s costume design, in bold colors as well as vibrant pastels, add an exclamation point to the production.  His set design does not overpower the show, allowing the audience to focus on the very talented cast.  However, when a signature piece is called on Loquasto doesn’t scrimp.  This includes a life-size train chugging on and off the stage and the Harmonia Gardens Restaurant scene with the iconic staircase, which Dolly Levi uses to make her grand entrance to the tune of “Hello, Dolly!”

Hello, Dolly!, a sumptuous revival, playing at The Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts thru November 17th.  Information and tickets are at:

Portions of this review were previously published.

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