Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Cleveland & Akron

Hello, Dolly!
National Tour
Review by David Ritchey

Also see David's review of Mamma Mia!


Lewis J. Stadlen, Betty Buckley, and Cast
Photo by Julieta Cervantes
Cleveland is the official starting point for the new national tour of Hello, Dolly!, scheduled to travel through August 2019. The production is based on the recent smash hit Broadway revival initially, and finally, starring Bette Midler, with Bernadette Peters appearing in between.

Betty Buckley's name is above the title for the tour; she is the lead, the title character, and you know she is going to dominate this beautiful production of an American favorite. When Buckley made her first entrance, stepping from the train and standing center stage, the audience in the Connor Palace stood and cheered. She knew she was where she belonged, with a loving audience.

Buckley seems to be in top form as she sings, dances, and delivers old lines that still bring laughs. This role is written for a mature actress and it is vocally demanding, requiring plenty of dance skills as well. Betty Buckley is up to the demands, even though she gets few breaks from the physical action of the story.

This show goes back to 1964, when it starred Carol Channing, or in truth, back to the early 1950s, with Ruth Gordon as Dolly Gallagher Levi in The Matchmaker by Thornton Wilder, which is the source of the musical. Hello, Dolly! features a book by Michael Stewart and a score by Jerry Herman. Credits still include Gower Champion, the original director and choreographer. For this production, Jerry Zaks is the director and Warren Carlyle the choreographer.

Lewis J. Stadlen makes Horace Vandergelder the perfect stage curmudgeon. He grouches and grumbles and yet none of the characters in scenes with him are intimidated. Vandergelder has two young men who work in his feed and grain store, Cornelius Hackl and Barnaby Tucker. Nic Rouleau creates a charming Cornelius Hackl who finally gets to visit New York City and kiss a girl. He's a spectacular singer and a good dancer. Barnaby Tucker is played by Jess LeProtto, a gifted dancer and a good singer. He can milk most every laugh from any line the playwright wrote for his character.

Analisa Leaming plays Irene Molly, the owner of the New York City hat shop where all the lead characters meet. Leaming is a beautiful, gifted singer and dancer.

"The Waiters' Galop" is the showstopping dance by the waiters in preparation for Dolly's entrance into the Harmonia Gardens Restaurant. They dance up and down the stairs that lead from the entrance to the restaurant to the main floor, carrying trays of food, bottles of drink, and covered trays. This is a great company of sure-footed dancers who excel in this scene.

The large (33 performers) cast keeps the action moving and makes the stage erupt with dazzling costumes by Santo Loquasto, also the scenic designer. The choreographer and costumer have worked hand-in-hand to keep the colors exploding across the stage. Dolly's first entrance is on a streetcar that is shockingly bright and vivid. The costumes and the set are in harmony, as Loquasto balances complementary colors throughout the production.

In summary, this production of Hello, Dolly! is a treat for the eyes.

A number of years ago, I saw a production of Hello, Dolly! in Mexico City, with a leading Argentinean actress playing Dolly. The production in Spanish was clean and clear and I understood most of what was happening on the stage.

I suspect that Hello, Dolly! works in any language. Betty Buckley and company make this English language Hello, Dolly! a pleasant evening in the theater.

Hello, Dolly!,through October 21, 2018, in the Connor Palace, Playhouse Square, 1501 Euclid Avenue, Cleveland OH. Call for seats now, at 216-640-8800 or visit www.playhousesquare.org. For more information on the tour, visit hellodollyonbroadway.com/tour.


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