Is “Hello, Dolly!” newly revived on Bway with the legendary Bette Midler and selling like hot cakes, one of the greatest shows ever??? PRETTY Close! It’s an instant contact high, as they used to say in the ’60s. The minute you hear the first few notes of that famous score, Gerry Herman’s best by far, you’re instantly elated.
Like your lungs are filling up with helium!
The Orchestra got applause at the first notes. The conductor got applause! The scenery got applause, when the curtain went up. The chorus, when they first entered, got applause. And Bette Midler? Well, she stopped the show cold by just dropping the newspaper that she was hiding behind, to her lap. She got an ovation! And it just didn’t stop! And I mean, the crowd was just going wild from seeing her. In person. At age 72. And “back where she belonged” on Bway, where she’d never been before.
Well that’s not exactly true. When I was in college, I saw her in “Fiddler on the Roof” as Tzeitel, the oldest daughter of Teyve, who gets married as the cast sings “Sunrise, Sunset.” And I remember looking at my program and trying to find “that girl,””She’s going to be famous, ” I thought. The girl who had the most infectious smile…She still does. She was “Midler from Fiddler” for three years. But Supporting no longer.She’s the star of stars now of “Hello, Dolly!” and she is just flat out wonderful in it! The audience was going CRA-ZEE, as I’ve said. And the whole show is just miraculously infectious like Bette’s crinkly smile. Just what is it that makes it so fabulous? It’s like bottled joy! I’m not kidding. You just can’t be in a bad mood around Bette Midler’s role of a lifetime, Dolly Levy. A matchmaker, made in heaven.
Broadway veteran director Jerry Zaks is at the absolute zenith of his long career here and so is newcomer, choreographer Warren Carlyle.. They have lovingly recreated what must’ve been the sugary-up, rainbow feeling of the late, great Gower Champion’s two-dimensional, but fabulous dancing. And it gets better.
Another Broadway baby who has been around for quite some time Gavin Creel completely owns the role of Chief Hay and Seed Clerk Cornelius Hackl, who is just bursting to get a day off and go to Manhattan.(“Hello, Dolly!” is set firmly in Yonkers.) And “Put on His Sunday Clothes” and go dancing and he “won’t come home until” he falls in love, which of course he does.
The Six Foot plus Creel has just been nominated for a Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle Award for Best Featured Actor in a Musical. As has his co-star Kate Baldwin, and Bette, too, mais oui.
Creel has been nominated for a Tony twice for “Thoroughly Modern Millie” and “Hair”, but never won. This may be his year. And he’s an Out Gay LGBT actor, and I’m very, very proud of him. He also WON an Olivier Award in London for his role as Elder Price in “The Book of Morman.”
It certainly is Bette’s year, who has NEVER been nominated for a Tony, but this year I predict she will be dodging all the awards that are going to be hurled at her. Her powerhouse Dolly Levy lives up to her legendary alter ego The Divine Miss M, make no mistake.
Meaning that Sophie Tucker and the Mermaid-in-the-Wheelchair are never far from her Dolly, who, of course, has a wicked twinkle in her eye, 72-year-old widow though she may be.
Her conversations with her late husband Ephraim, which she delivers downstage center, are very moving indeed. She gets to exercise her dramatic chops here and grounds her Dolly in a great well of loneliness as she plaintively begs her late husband’s ghost “to let me go, Ephraim.” She wants to rejoin life “Before the Parade Passes By” and she does.
With her irrepressible humor and warmth, a lark and a flirtation and an active persuing of “half-a-millionaire, Horace Vandergelder” keep her moving forward even while she is trying to make matches for Cornelius and his fellow clerk Barnaby (a marvelously pint-sized bundle of joy, Taylor Trensch). David Hyde Pierce is masterful here. too, as Horace. Pierce mightily holds his comic own as the pinch-penny object of Dolly’s overly effusive affection.
“Hello, Dolly!” is a much sturdier and more delightful vehicle than I ever imagined it to be. I saw it with Ginger Rogers of all people when I was a mere child, and I don’t remember being THIS excited about it.
In the hands of all these great Broadway pros and one certified legend, the divine Bette, I just never wanted it to end. And with the way the public is storming the box-office it may never end. Ever. And I don’t want it to.
This is Broadway at its’ absolute, level best. Pure old-fashioned escapism superbly done and it’s best, it’s absolute best.#Hello, Dolly! # Bette Midler # Broadway, #Musical Comedy, #Gavin Creel # David Hyde Pierce