Monday, March 20, 2023
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Hello Dolly! - Glorious revival starring the Divine Miss M

Oscar E. Moore “from the rear mezzanine” for Talk

And divine she is. Bette Midler. The voice is a bit rusty. But she still retains the spunk that made her famous. The comic timing. The tilt of the head. The wink to the audience. The freedom to adlib and make this sterling production one not to be missed. She shines like pure gold. Enjoying every minute she is on stage.

Of course she has had a lot of help. First and foremost Jerry Herman who wrote a blockbuster of a score (one hit after another) when songs were songs that could be remembered long after the performance ended. I am surprised that the entire audience doesn’t join in singing the title song in this almost free for all production! It has become such a popular classic!

Then Gower Champion who created Dolly’s original look (direction and choreography) that Warren Carlyle has caressed with loving care and added just a bit of balletic newness.

Jerry Zaks has taken over the direction and made this production a hilarious vaudevillian farce that makes us as pleased as punch. One question: In the jury scene how and why did Dolly get to chew on that turkey leg sitting at a table from the Harmonia Gardens Restaurant? It is funny but makes no sense…

Her co-star David Hyde Pierce as Horace Vandergelder with a weird accent has been given another song to open Act II to pad his part. The amusing “Penny in My Pocket” was cut from the original production. He now comes from behind the show curtain to sing it and one might think he has come to announce that Dolly has taken ill and cannot continue. Thankfully that is not the case as this production is 100% pure Bette. Why couldn’t David Hyde Pierce be pure David Hyde Pierce?

The sets and costumes by Santo Loquasto are perfect period pieces that are eye popping visions of pastel rainbows on parade.

Gavin Creel is wonderful as Cornelius as is Taylor Trensch as his buddy Barnaby who work for Vandergelder and leave Yonkers for New York City seeking adventure and love.

Book writer Michael Stewart does wonders in adapting Thornton Wilder’s THE MATCHMAKER to fulfill their wants and needs as they each fall in love. Cornelius to Irene Molloy (a ravishing Kate Baldwin) and Barnaby to Minnie Fay (a brand new comic face belonging to Beanie Feldstein). Even Melanie Moore as the oft crying Ermengarde is not irritating as she follows her heart in capturing Ambrose Kemper (Will Burton) – bringing back fond memories of Tommy Tune.

Dolly has her eyes dead set on Vandergelder and his gelt and gets him to get her in the end ending with a beautiful finale that causes the audience to erupt once again in adulation for the Divine Miss M.

With a forty million dollar advance Bette Midler should be the reigning Queen of Broadway Musicals for quite a long time. Even the television commercials are a class act. This production is a very special event that should be seen. You will never get such an opportunity again. Relish it in all its finery. Long live the Divine Miss M. At the Shubert Theatre

Photo: Julieta Cervantes

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