Sunday, March 19, 2017

Divine Hello, Dolly!

In the new revival of Jerry Herman's Hello, Dolly!, Bette Midler doesn’t so much inhabit the character of Dolly Gallagher Levi as allow Dolly to inhabit her own divinity. With double takes and side eyes, Bette's Dolly breaks the fourth wall while mining all the laughs from Michael Stewart’s classic book. (Breaking the fourth wall is a typical conceit of original playwright Thornton Wilder.) Midler is ably aided by David Hyde Pierce, a perfect foil as Horace Vandergelder and someone who the producers felt worthy enough to add the previously cut Vandergelder solo, Penny In My Pocket, as the second act opener. The rest of the supporting cast sing and dance joyfully in the ageless musical: Gavin Creel as Cornelius Hackl is adorable, Kate Baldwin as Irene Molloy is resplendent, Taylor Trensch as Barnaby Tucker is a mensch and Beanie Feldstein as Minnie Fay is a revelation. The sets are darling, dances energetic throwbacks, costumes colorfully vintage and Herman’s songs tuneful as ever.

Undoubtedly though everyone in the house for this first (March 15) preview was there for Midler’s return to the musical theatre. Exhilaration was in the air as we braved the 20 degree weather for the 8:00 PM curtain. (No late seating EVER … for this engagement.) When Bette finally enters on a trolley, there’s a standing ovation. Bette lifts her skirts to dance at Irene Molloy’s, there’s a standing ovation. She sings the act one closer Before The Parade Passes By, there’s a standing ovation. And following the always entertaining Waiters’ Gallop, when the Harmonia Gardens curtains part and Bette descends the stairs to the strains of the classic title tune, the roar of approval is deafening. Bette’s Dolly is, at once, boisterous, reflective, quirky … and quite hungry. This role would be her star-making turn - if she hadn’t already been a star for almost fifty years! Bette Midler in Hello, Dolly! is an event that comes along once in a lifetime and lucky me I have tickets for two more events. How lucky can you get!

(How lucky can you get! See what I did there?)

Click the link for a NSFW throwback on Bette called It's Not Porn. It's Bette Midler!.

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