Review: Hello, Dolly!

Cast of Hello, Dolly!                                                                         Photo by Julieta Cervantes

By Larry Laneer
October 16, 2019

Theatergoers may wonder if the classic musical Hello, Dolly! is relevant in today’s strident times. Is it anything more than two-and-a-half hours of escapism? Probably not, but if you’re looking for a respite from wars and investigations, you could do worse than this show.

With music and lyrics by the legendary Jerry Herman and book by Michael Stewart, Hello, Dolly! represents an ideal example of the mid-20th-century book musical. It’s hard to believe, but this 1964 musical could be a new show to a couple of generations of theatergoers. That’s  reason enough for OKC Broadway to present it now at the Thelma Gaylord.

This is the touring version of the 2017 Broadway revival, which starred Bette Midler in the title role until she was replaced by Bernadette Peters. It’s easy to see how director Jerry Zaks has staged the show to feature Dolly even more than usual. Alas, no Midler or Peters here, but we do have Carolee Carmello as Dolly Gallagher Levi in an affecting, sincere performance that ranges from poignant to sassy. In addition to a fine singing voice, Carmello has the chops for comic acting required for the role. The audience gave her entrance applause on opening night, and she lived up to expectations.

 The cast in this production consistently sings Herman’s tuneful and lyrical songs with nearly perfect clarity. John Bolton as Horace Vandergelder gets the curmudgeonly part down, but you feel his Vandergelder is an old softie at heart. Bolton does “Penny in My Pocket” in front of the curtain to open the second act, and the song has a certain sweetness. It’s Herman’s version of a patter song.

Daniel Beeman as Cornelius Hackl has a beautiful singing voice, as does his female counterpart, Analisa Leaming as Irene Molloy. Sean Burns (as Barnaby) and Chelsea Cree Groen (Minnie Fay) give equally fine performances.

It’s easy to forget that Hello, Dolly! with one of the great scores in musical theater is also a dancing show. Warren Carlyle’s choreography looks up-to-date while being faithful to both the show’s 1885 setting and its mid-20th-century nascence. The dancers execute the choreography with expert precision. Carylye’s dances range from feathery (“Before The Parade Passes By”) to acrobatic (“The Waiters’ Gallop” stopped the show on opening night).

Santo Loquasto designed both scenery and costumes. The scenic design’s backdrops have the rich look of late-19th-century postcards and match his tasteful period costumes. The neon costumes of “Put on Your Sunday Clothes” seem to come from way beyond Yonkers, New York, where the show is partly set, but don’t ask me where.

The songs and dance wouldn’t come off right without a solid pit orchestra, and this production features a band of close to 20 musicians with string, reed, and brass sections. This is a good size orchestra for a touring show.

In this production, you have a quality performance of a worthy musical. The show may not send you trippingly out of the theater, but you should feel entertained.

Hello, Dolly! by Jerry Herman (music/lyrics) and Michael Stewart (book)
OKC Broadway
7:30 p.m. Wednesday-Thursday, 8:00 p.m. Friday, 2:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m. Saturday,
1:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m. Sunday, through October 20
Thelma Gaylord Performing Arts Theatre
201 N. Walker Ave.

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