“Hello, Dolly” – ASU Gammage

Theater Review – January 10, 2019


Broadway Across America – Arizona, ASU Gammage
Tempe, AZ

Even though Betty Buckley is not the perfect performer to play the lovably matchmaker, Dolly Levi, she works hard to bring the awesome challenge off.  Like Barbra Streisand in the movie version of Jerry Herman’s bright and tuneful show, Buckley is always playing the meddlesome controller but she never actually becomes the endearing character.  And Buckley, at age 70, doesn’t have the pristine vocal prowess she once had so now she talk-sings her way through the role hitting some of the notes while missing others.

But this production of the recent Broadway revival of the now classic 1964 tuner first starred Bette Midler and later Bernadette Peters.  The current touring production is sharply staged and the supporting roles are played to perfection while a large, energetic singer/dancer ensemble presents the show with poise and polish plus there’s lush scenery and colorful period costumes that look fabulous.

Admittedly, I am somewhat choosey having seen many of the famous Dolly’s in person including original star Carol Channing, Ginger Rogers, Mary Martin, Patrice Munsel, Dorothy Lamour, Betty Grable, and Phyllis Diller.  Buckley places last in the long list of talented star performers I’ve witnessed in this role.

This production’s other lead, Lewis J. Stadlen as Horace Vandergelder, also disappoints.  He brings nothing new to the role and uses gimmicks and tired bits of business that he repeated over and over that have been perfected by his many predecessors.  Stadlen never stands out but just blends into the production.  Horace must be a focal point so that when Dolly tames him, it has meaning.

But beyond the two leads, this company is top-notch from Nic Rouleau’s sharply defined Cornelius who at age 33 finally decides to buck his employment servitude and experiences life in New York City for the first time.  He takes Jess LeProtto’s sublime Barnaby Tucker with him.  They meet Irene Malloy, a hat shop owner, played charmingly by Analisa Leaming, and her assistant Minnie Fay, played with awkward lovability by Kristen Hahn.

The huge dancing fest played to the show’s well-worn title tune comes off glowingly as do all the musical numbers choreographed by Warren Carlyle and staged by Jerry Zaks.  The production is heavily influenced by Gower Champion’s original concept that is still credited in the program.  An excellent sound system allows audiences to understand every lyric.  “Hello, Dolly” continues through Sunday, January 13 at ASU Gammage.  For any remaining tickets, contact Ticketmaster at 800-982-2787 or order tickets online at www.ticketmaster.com.

Grade: A-