Hello, Dolly!

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Hello, Dolly!

Shubert Theatre, NYC, May 27, 2018

Reviewed by Chris Struck for Cabaret Scenes

Bernadette Peters
Photo Julieta Cervantes

Encapsulating the Bernadette Peters run in the production of Hello, Dolly! in one word is easy: Magnificent. The cast is astounding and deserves its own round of praise for its vibrant spirit and ability to resonate with both adults and the little seven-year-olds who mimed every one of Peters’s movements once she took the stage. In the titular role of Dolly Gallagher Levi, Peters’ cutesie voice can make her seem a little less intimidating and striking.
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However, this is altogether endearing as she creates the role as an underestimated woman with an uncanny ability to weave things into being. Regardless, Peters’ ability to own the spotlight and appreciate applause seems to generously fit a role meant to put all eyes on her whenever she touches the stage. She plays a well-connected woman with an eye for stealing the heart of Yonkers rich man Horace Vandergelder, played by consummately stalwart Victor Garber, who also joins the cast as a new addition. The two of them work wonders together and, apart, are dynamic as well.

The most important part of this play and what makes it work from start to finish is the balance struck by the cast returnees, Gavin Creel as Cornelius Hackl (Tony Award winner) and Kate Baldwin as Irene Molloy (Tony nominee). When Mrs. Molloy, the initial love interest and intended fiancee of Vandergelder, is finally introduced in an incredible millinary scene, the audience seemed to crack from the solid expectancy awaiting awe into the same giddiness exuberantly displayed by the kids in the balcony. Aiding these two with well-timed dancing, screaming, and shouts of “Pudding!,” signaling adventure, are Molly Griggs as Minnie Fay and Michael Hartung as Barnaby Tucker. As Molloy, Baldwin shook us out of our Peters-focused stupor with her incredible “Ribbons Down My Back,” and a comical take on life as a rich wife. When Hackl and Tucker (employees of Vandergelder in Yonkers) ran into the shop to avoid Vandergelder discovering that they are playing hooky, the chemistry among these four started a waterfall of laughter. This built well into the appearances of Vandergelder and Dolly, who entered into a slapstick routine of avoiding Vandergelder  discovering Hackl and Tucker.
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This scene in the haberdashery also sets up the through line of the plot that ultimately brings all six of these characters to the Harmonia Gardens restaurant for the climax that makes Hello, Dolly!, the iconic classic that it is. After Act II opens with Garber’s strong solo performance of “Penny in My Pocket”—elucidating what it takes to become a rich man—Molloy, Hackl, Tucker, and Fay sing one of my personal favorites of this outing, “Elegance,” as they walk to the restaurant (at Dolly’s urging because the gentlemen have no money) to impress Molloy and Fay. This is the same restaurant where Vandergelder is also meeting a new potential bride, Ernestina, whom Dolly hopes will turn him on to her instead. As both dinners seem to turn toward disaster (with Molloy ordering too much food and Ernestina acting outrageously), in struts Dolly with every waiter and member of the staff moving to her beat. Clashing pots like symbols, and dancing in beautiful rhythm, Peters didn’t pass up a chance to strut her stuff a second time in unison with the waiters around Shubert Theatre’s live orchestra pit.

In the end, when Vandergelder reprises “Hello, Dolly!” and asks her to marry him upon her appearance in his shop, despite his being a curmudgeon and being abrasive toward her at Harmonia Gardens, the heart senses something deeply sentimental. Even if the pretty woman only chases after Vandergelder for his money, she does want him to put it toward good use rather than hoard it  for himself. In many ways this is what makes Hello, Dolly! remain timeless to New York and a pinnacle role for leading women like Bernadette Peters. In my opinion, seeing the costumes and choreography is worth the price of admission alone, and you get to see yet another indelible great work her magic on stage.

Chris Struck

Chris Struck's debut novel, Kennig and Gold, is due to be officially published in June 2019. He's written reviews for Cabaret Scenes since August of 2017. For more information about the writer, see StruckChris.com