Regional Reviews: Washington, D.C.
This is a busy summer for Broadway tours at the Kennedy Center: the first-class touring production of Hello, Dolly! has arrived in the Opera House while Falsettos is playing next door in the Eisenhower Theater. (Coming up: Disney's Aladdin in the Opera House and The Band's Visit and Dear Evan Hansen in the Eisenhower.)
The tour may be a bit smaller in scope than the revival that dazzled Broadway in 2017-2018, but the cast is still immense (more than 30 performers), Warren Carlyle's choreography is as on point as ever, and Jerry Zaks' direction still crackles. Santo Loquasto's period-setting scenic designwith its gold-trimmed red velvet curtain, chaser lights around an arched proscenium, and backdrops painted to resemble 19th-century postcardsfits the space well, and Loquasto's rainbow of costumes keep things lively.
One thing about an iconic role like Dolly is seeing how a specific performer will make it her own. Bette Midler had humor and chutzpah, Bernadette Peters was achingly tender, Donna Murphy surprisingly funny (for viewers who know her for her serious roles). Buckley's Dolly is a straight shooter who doesn't care if the people she's manipulating realize what she's doing, which leads to the crackling scenes between her and old pro Lewis J. Stadlen as curmudgeonly Horace Vandergelder.
Nic Rouleau, boyish with a gleaming smile, and gawky Sean Burns are adorable as Cornelius and Barnaby, Vandergelder's put-upon clerks, well matched with elegant Analisa Leaming as Irene Molloy, Vandergelder's supposed fiancée, and dithering, bespectacled Kristen Hahn as her assistant, Minnie Fay. Colin LeMoine shows off his long-legged dancing as Ambrose Kemper, who wants to marry Vandergelder's niece Ermengarde (Morgan Kirner in a role that mostly allows her to cry and whimper).
The large ensemble means that Carlyle's production numbers dazzle with color and movement. The citizens of Yonkers invade Vandergelder's store and, later, posture in their Sunday clothes, the solo introspection of "Before the Parade Passes By" shifts into a robust parade scene, and the waiters of the Harmonia Gardens are as impressive as ever as they juggle trays of food, fence with meat skewers, and balance increasingly high stacks of plates, all building up to the inevitable moment when Dolly, in her jeweled red gown and plumed headdress, makes her grand entrance.