Broadway: Bette Midler is divine in ‘Hello, Dolly!’

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Broadway: Bette Midler is divine in ‘Hello, Dolly!’
Bill Canacci
May 18, 2017

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It only takes a moment for the crowd at “Hello, Dolly!” to fall in love with Bette Midler.

Actually, that’s not true.

The love and joy was all around the Shubert Theatre before she even came on stage. So you can imagine what the reaction is like when she first is seen, let alone when The Divine Miss M descends the staircase at the Harmonia Gardens restaurant to sing the show’s signature song.

“Wow wow wow, fellas,” indeed.

This insanely popular revival recently received 10 Tony nominations. But to be fair, it is not the best production this reviewer has seen of the Michael Stewart musical comedy, featuring one Broadway standard after another by Jerry Herman.

But that does not matter.

It does not matter that the show, directed by Jerry Zaks, is a bit too campy, especially in Act II.

It does not matter that “The Waiters’ Gallop” — as the staff prepares for Dolly’s arrival — is not quite up to speed.

And it certainly does not matter that the Tony-nominated Midler, whose voice soared for decades, cannot hit all the notes.

What’s important is that this is an excellent cast. What’s important is that, no matter how familiar you are with the show, you’ll be smiling from start to finish.

And let’s not forget this: Dolly needs to entertain — and Midler is a showstopper.

She’s funny, silly, ridiculous — and it all works. She loves the adulation coming from the audience, which, ahem, keeps her glowing and going strong.

“Hello, Dolly!” is a musical version of Thorton Wilder’s 1955 play “The Matchmaker,” about a meddlesome widow who tries to bring romance to couples — and herself. The legendary Carol Channing opened as Dolly in 1964, and would go on to play the role more than 5,000 times (she also played Dolly in the 1995 revival). The show won 10 Tony Awards in 1964.

Will it go 10 for 10 this year? Unlikely. But the cast is first-rate.

Tony-nominated David Hyde Pierce as the curmudgeon Horace Vandergelder is mostly entertaining. Yet his Act II solo opener “Penny in My Pocket,” a song cut before the original show opened, goes on far too long, and is not that funny.

Tony-nominated Gavin Creel as Vandergelder’s head clerk Cornelius is fabulous. Creel may not be a star, but he should be. This is his third nomination (“Hair,” “Thoroughly Modern Millie”) — and he could easily have been nominated for last year’s revival of “She Loves Me.”

Tony-nominated Kate Baldwin impresses as Irene Molloy, the hat maker who catches Cornelius’ eye. Hearing Baldwin sing “Ribbons Down My Back” is one of show’s best moments.

Taylor Trensch as Barnaby (“Holy Cabooses!”), Vandergelder’s junior clerk, is lots of fun, especially when the boys go to Molloy’s hat shop. Barnaby falls for Minnie Fay (Beanie Feldstein), who makes a fun and memorable Broadway debut.

Another star of the show is Santo Loquasto, who received nominations for best scenic design and for the colorful, fabulous costumes. I would love the world to see the cast dressed to the nines and sing “Put on Your Sunday Clothes” at this year’s Tony Awards. What the world needs now is love, melody and a rainbow of dresses.

Larry Hochman’s orchestration of this magnificent music is first rate – certainly deserving of his Tony nod.

So as the song says, “get in step while there’s still time left” – don’t let this parade pass you by.

HELLO, DOLLY!

WHERE: Shubert Theatre, 225 W. 44th St., New York

TICKETS: $59 to $229 (much more on the secondary market)

INFO: 212-239-6200 or www.telecharge.com

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