– By Cate Marquis –
The Fox transforms its stage into a colorful fantasy of 1890s New York when it hosts HELLO, DOLLY! from Oct. 1-13. The venerable musical is a perfect fit for musical-mad St. Louis, and has been a perennial favorite at the Muny. This new Broadway revival is not only filled with nostalgia for the 1890s but for the musical itself, with warm winking references to the movie and many stage versions.
Carolee Carmello plays Dolly Gallagher Levi, the widowed matchmaker who is tasked with finding a wife for the curmudgeonly “half millionaire” Horace Vandergelder, played by John Bolton. Whether your vision of the perfect Dolly is Broadway’s Carol Channing or Hollywood’s Barbara Streisand, Carmello delivers a worthy interpretation. In fact, it often feels as if she is playing a star playing Dolly, as much as playing Dolly Levi herself.
The supporting roles are well played, with a maximum of winking broad farce. Horace’s underpaid clerks, Cornelius and Barnaby, are played winningly by Daniel Beeman and Sean Burns, as they plot to run off to New York from distant Yonkers while the boss is off in the big city to meet his prospective bride Irene Molloy (Analisa Leaming), the owner of a ladies hat shop. Irene is having second thoughts about marrying skinflint Horace, which helps set the whole crazy plot in motion.
Audiences likely know that story, as this Broadway production is more likely to bring in the fans of the long-running beloved musical than newbies. Which is part of the fun of this entertaining production, which acknowledges that fact in addressing the audience directly from time to time.
HELLO, DOLLY! has always had plenty of color in its fantasy of a bygone era but this production is particularly candy-colored, with playful interpretations of the period costumes and eye-popping sets. One of the best is the multi-level set for Horace’s shop, full of hiding places from which the cast can emerge. Another highlight is the horse-drawn trolley, pulled by high-stepping dancers in horse costumes, a very amusing effect.
Dancing is really in the forefront in this highly entertaining show, even more so than the excellent singing. The dancing is very energetic, with ballet technique featured, with dancers leaping and pirouetting to big applause. The “Hello, Dolly!” signature song capping the second act gets a rousing round of applause, of course, as well as an encore rendition. But the big surprise is the other showstopper in the second act, an elaborate dance of waiters and cooks at the restaurant, with flying trays, rolling pins and dancer’s bodies, as they dance across table tops and rolling carts, with acrobatic flips and near-miss passes. The dance sequence is so riveting, so thrilling, it is worth the price of admission alone.
HELLO, DOLLY! fills the Fox with nostalgic fun, warm memories and energetic dance, making it a perfect trip down memory lane.
© Cate Marquis