Review by John Woll Of “Hello, Dolly!”: Broadway in Cincinnati
“Hello Dolly!“ is the 1964 Jerry Herman musical adaptation of Thorton Wilder’s The Matchmaker. The show harkens to the golden age of musical theater. The original Broadway production won a record-breaking 10 Tony Awards.
Dolly Gallagher Levi is a strong-willed and meddling matchmaker (amongst many other talents) who travels to Yonkers, New York, to find a match for the miserly “well known unmarried half-a-millionaire” Horace Vandergelder. Dolly brings together Vangergelder’s overworked young clerk Cornelius and his assistant Barnaby with widowed milliner Irene Molloy and her assistant Minnie Fay. Dolly pulls the strings on a series of events from Vandergelder’s Hay and Feed Store, to Irene’s Hat Shop, to Harmonia Gardens Restaurant where all of their stories collide and Dolly struts down the grand centerstage staircase in true Broadway Diva fashion.
The title role was originally written for Ethel Merman but she turned it down. Carol Channing created the iconic role and headlining this production is Broadway veteran Carolee Carmello. She is an absolutely captivating powerhouse whose performance is a skillful masterpiece and the heart beat of the show.
The world of this touring version—of the 2017 Tony Award for Best Revival of a Musical- -is extremely stylized into a larger than life technicolor parade fantasy with equal parts wit and slapstick: 1885 through the lens of the 1960’s, but with a fresh modern filter and a whole lot of fun! The costumes are ornate and plentiful, the lighting is bright and vibrant. The incredible sets often play on a forced perspective in a very inventive way and seem to change in a flash. The choral sound of the ensemble is spectacular and the 17 piece orchestra brings out all of the class, pop and panache of this boisterous score. The choreography is a dazzling display of technique and often makes pageantry out of pedestrian movement, but the acrobatic “Waiters Gallop” is a ballet of jovial waiters with years of ballet training who will cakewalk their way to your heart.
John Bolton plays Vandergelder with vigor and unabashed whimsy that helps to soften the blow of some of the sexist and dated gender roles in “It takes a Woman”. The show moves at a bouncy pace and is a joyous escape to a colorful landscape. Dolly has always been synonymous with courting, romance and marriage but at the core of it’s message: “Whatever life’s hardships, get out there and live.”
‘Put on Your Sunday Clothes’ and come see Hello Dolly! at the Aronoff ‘Before the Parade Passes By’. Playing thru Sun, Dec. 15 at The Aronoff Center. Tickets are available at CincinnatiArts.org.