Review: Don’t Let This Parade Pass You By – Midler Opens in ‘Hello Dolly!’
By Mark McLaren, Editor in Chief, April 22, 2017
Entertainment legend Bette Midler arrives boldly on Broadway following a fifty-year career that would shame the bloomers off the character she takes on. Midler inhabits Dolly Gallagher Levi effortlessly in this revival of the classic American musical, Hello Dolly! Stop by for something divine.
Jerry Herman’s warhorse, with its tuneful score, bold characters and unflappable optimism, is a staple and here, Jerry Zaks directs an energetic reproduction of the Broadway original, giving particular and thankful care to Gower Champion’s rich choreography.
In fact, it is possible that you have seen something very similar to this production as the irrepressible Carol Channing (both Merman and Martin passed) toured it for more than thirty years.
Dolly Levi is as much essence as character – a combination of ambition, audacity and tenacity. Throw in just a bit of self-doubt, and you have the formula that has provided success for those (including Streisand) taking her on.
Well no one, and I mean no one, understands ambition, audacity, tenacity and perhaps a bit of self-doubt better than Bette Midler, who came up in the original 1968 Fiddler and has since had a career path that a Kenyan distance runner would envy: Continental Baths, perpetual variety show and late-night guest, comedy albums, live concert albums, Academy Award nomination. A Disney contract and Down and Out in Beverly Hills began a string of film hits that cemented her star status and propelled blow-out successful concert tours and recordings.
Midler’s technical abilities are rock solid and it’s hard to think of better comic timing. These are on display at the Shubert Theatre, but a key element of any Midler performance is the love she wrings from her audience, which seems to want nothing more than for her to succeed.
Well, succeed she does. At 71, the belt that spun ballad after ballad is still vibrant, if slightly rough around the edges. Her numbers sail through the house and often stop the show. This Dolly is uniquely Midler’s, but dare I say gently so – a performance that, by a Midler-standard, is restrained. She’s as lovable as she is tenacious and the final payoff is sweet. Along the way is some hilarious comedy. A bit with food also stops the show, in that fun, old fashioned musical-as-star-vehicle kind of way.
David Hyde Pierce is love interest Horace Vandegelder, and comes with some solid comic timing of his own. ‘Penny in My Pocket,’ establishing Vandegelder’s roots, is played simply in front of the curtain with impressive skill. But Pierce’s take is also very specific to this actor and it can be a tad tough to find the straight man (comedically speaking) when he and Midler are together.
But no matter, this cast is enviable. Broadway veterans Gavin Creel and Kate Baldwin charm as all heck as Cornelius Hackl and Irene Molloy, engaging voices in crisp performances. Baldwin brings a nice dose of feisty while Creel has a face as open and earnest as a church breakfast.
Zaks’ remount plays vividly, with barely a speck of dust to be found. Champion’s classic choreography is danced with the precision of a Midler jab at Madonna, on the bodies of a very talented chorus that sounds as good as it looks.
And at the center is Bette Midler, who takes on a role she decisively makes her own with Midler audacity, tenacity and a healthy does of unflappable optimism. Don’t miss Bette Midler as Dolly.
Hello, Dolly! by Jerry Herman and Michael Stewart in an open run at the Sam S. Shubert Theatre, directed by Jerry Zaks, choreography by Warren Carlyle after original by Gower Champion, scenic and costume design by Santo Loquasto, lighting design by Natasha Katz, music supervision by Andy Einhorn, sound design by Scott Lehrer, orchestrations by Larry Hochman, vocal arrangements by Don Pippin, and dance arrangements by David Chase.
With: Bette Midler, David Hyde Pierce, Gavid Creel, Kate Baldwin, Taylor Trensch Beanie Feldstein, Will Burton, Melanie Moore, Jennifer Simard, Kevin Ligon. And with Cameron Adams, Phillip Attmore, Guseppe Bausilio, Justin Bowen, Taeler Cyrus, Elizabeth Earley, Leslie Donna Flesner, Jenifer Foote, Jessica lee Goldyn, Stephen Hahna, Michael Hartung, Robert Hartwell, Aaron Kaburick, Amanda LaMotte, Analisa Leaming, Jess LeProtto, Ian Liberto, Nathan Madden, Michael McCormick, Linda Mugleston, Hayley Podschun, Jessica Sheridan, Michael Jon Slinger, Christian Dante White, Branch Woodman, Ryan Worsing and Richard Riza Yoder.
Cover Photo: David Hyde Pierce and Bette Midler in ‘Hello Dolly!;’ photo: Julieta Cervantes