This post is part of my “Broadway in Review” series, where I explore shows on and off Broadway, including national tours and out-of-town engagements.
Hello, Dolly! (2017 Broadway Revival, June 2018 cast starring Bernadette Peters and Victor Garber)
Amidst all the pop musicals and high-tech shows, it’s nice to see that classic Broadway is still alive and well. More than a year into its run, the 2017 revival of Hello, Dolly! played on a Saturday night to a very packed and very active house. I’ve never seen so many mid-number applause breaks. There was choreography applause. There was applause when every principle entered for the first time. There was applause for each and every comedic beat.
This was one of the hottest audiences I’ve ever experienced. And the performers knew it—one bit between Bernadette Peters (Dolly Levi) and Victor Garber (Horace Vandergelder) worked so well that Peters extended it, going off-script so far that both actors broke character for an extended period of time, cracking up mid-scene and taking the audience with them. I had tears rolling down my face.
It was a good show.
This was my first time seeing Dolly on stage, having previously only been familiar with the film starring Barbra Streisand. I love that film, despite the controversy around Streisand’s age, and I was curious how well it would work in its original format. It works, though of course the film version is bigger and more expansive. Since I don’t know the stage show, I’m not familiar with what the 2017 revival changed. I understand that Vandergelder’s number at the top of Act 2 is new, and it’s cute though probably unnecessary. The show felt a little long, but a good part of that was how much the performers played their comedic bits to the audience. I’m guessing that night’s runtime was much longer than usual.
The sets were lavish, of course. The dancing and singing was very much on point. And while Bernadette Peters isn’t quite Dolly Levi, she does a good enough job to warrant the role. Victor Garber is passable as Horace Vandergelder, though again I never quite felt as if he fully stepped into those shoes. Gavin Creel (Cornelius Hackl) was the standout worst, I thought. This could be because I’m so used to the Michael Crawford version, played much more emotively and with a far higher range. Kate Baldwin (Irene Malloy) was the standout best performer, with a devastatingly good voice. The other players lived up to their parts as well, including the ever-important waiters during the famous Hello, Dolly number. (The song is so famous that the theme alone earned mid-song applause during the overture—something else I’ve never experienced before.)
It’s fun, it’s funny, it’s big and it’s everything you would expect. I’m happy to see New York audiences so engaged with the material after all this time, and I’m happy to see a revival doing this well financially. Go see it!
Hello, Dolly! is playing at the Shubert Theatre.