By Sandi Durell
Look at the old girl now fellas . . . an especially poignant line in the title song for the Divine Miss M who, with a wink and a nod, has the audience eating out of her hand with every step she takes and raspy note she sings in this remarkable revival of Jerry Herman’s 1964 musical comedy. Them good ole vaudeville days!
The supreme meddling matchmaker Dolly Gallagher Levi (Bette Midler) is up to her old tricks sticking her nose in everyone’s business, as a woman who arranges things, looking for a wife for the ‘half millionaire’ from Yonkers corn and feed store’s Horace Vandergelder (David Hyde Pierce) but having decided she should be it. The sly and shameless Miss M, with tongue in cheek wit and precision, has the audience hyper-ventilating the moment she walks on stage. The phenomenon has a lot to do with the extraordinary music (remember the songs we not only could hum, but actually can sing the lyrics?) – – but it’s really all about Bette and seeing her on a Broadway stage in a book show 50 years after her performance in Fiddler on the Roof. She is a comic delight and brassy broad from start to finish, her timing impeccable.
In this Jerry Zaks’ helmed revival of old New York, with talented choreographer Warren Carlyle sticking to a lot of Gower Champion’s original dance moves, the Dolly train is roaring through at a speed that can be breathtaking. A song can begin as a solo, ending up as a big in your face production number utilizing the ultra talented cast of dancers – “The Waiters’ Gallop” in the Harmonia Gardens Restaurant, and the exciting (brings the audience to their feet) cast cake-walk at the conclusion, that repeats as an encore.
As the storyline goes, Dolly is asking her deceased husband Ephraim to let her go so she can marry. . . she’s tired and is looking for a rich husband. But she’s playing the game finding milliner widow Irene Molloy (the lovely voiced Kate Baldwin “Ribbons Down My Back”) as a possibility. Meanwhile, Horace’s two employees Cornelius Hackl (Gavin Creel) and Barnaby Tucker (Taylor Trensch) are tired as well, tired of not having a day off to have some fun and maybe find a lady friend. The older Cornelius leads the way for the 17 year old Barnaby as they take off to NYC on their quest winding up in Ms. Molloy’s shop where Barnaby finds Minnie Fay (a memorable debut for Beanie Feldstein) and all hell breaks loose when Horace enters and they run hither and yon to hide in slapstick comedy style.
Act I closes with Ms. M outside the curtain singing “Before The Parade Passes By.”
David Hyde Pierce is a curmudgeon as Horace the skinflint, infusing his own style of less is more with great comic abilities of double takes and ever so crafty little facial reactions. He’s given the opportunity to sing Act II opener “Penny in My Pocket,” the moving and rarely performed surprise.
Noteworthy performances include the hilarious Jennifer Simard as hootchie cootchie Ernestina, a vision in bright yellow, and another of Dolly’s choices for Horace before she makes her play for him at the Harmonia Gardens Restaurant where she has made her eye smacking descent into the club in bright red, sequins and plumes for the “Hello Dolly” show stopper. It’s also this scene that melds into a courtroom where the cast is bewilderedly frozen watching Dolly chomping away at that turkey leg, eating . . . and eating . . .dipping fingers into a gravy boat as she proceeds to lift it and drink from it. Interesting melding of two scenes that resolve in more laughter than imaginable.
The colorfully spectacular costumes – bustles, umbrellas, bowlers – are designed by multi award winning Santo Loquasto, as is the set design that is magnificently lit by Natasha Katz. Andy Einhorn is responsible for the crystalline music supervision and direction aided by Scott Lehrer’s sound design.
If you’re one who walks a literal line you’ll find a lot to complain about. However, if you listen to the audience and their overwhelming reaction of the love and appreciation they have for this revival because of its star, you can sit back, relax and just enjoy the moment. . . the many moments of this spectacular production!
Photos Julieta Cervantes
Hello, Dolly! – Shubert Theatre, 225 West 44 Street, NY – run time: 2 hours, 30 minutes.