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Review: Jubilant Hit Revival of “Hello, Dolly!” Comes to Broadway In Columbus

Richard Sanford Richard Sanford Review: Jubilant Hit Revival of “Hello, Dolly!” Comes to Broadway In ColumbusBetty Buckley in Hello, Dolly! Photo courtesy Julieta Cervantes.
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Hello, Dolly!, Jerry Herman (music and lyrics) and Michael Stewart’s (book) adaptation of Thornton Wilder’s The Matchmaker, has delighted audiences since its 1964 debut. A high-water mark for productions comes to the Ohio with the first tour of the 2017 Broadway smash revival, directed by Jerry Zaks and choreographed by Warren Carlyle.

This tale of romantic intrigue and slapstick in turn-of-the-19th-century New York features Betty Buckley as widowed matchmaker-hustler Dolly Gallagher Levi and Lewis J. Stadlen as half-a-millionaire Horace Vandergelder, the prey in her sights. Vandergelder’s beleaguered employees Cornelius Hackl (Nic Rouleau) and Barnaby Tucker (Sean Burns) who fall for his original betrothed, Irene Molloy (Analisa Leaming) and her best friend/coworker Minnie Fay (Kristen Hahn), round out the cast

Dolly Gallagher Levi’s passion for life and sustained curiosity continues to electrify audiences, and it’s hard to picture a better take on this iconic Broadway character than Betty Buckley. Buckley understands that Dolly doesn’t love the world in some soft-focus, generalized way, she loves it in specific. We’re living in Dolly’s world but that world’s vibrancy comes from acknowledging people.

Her lingering over each person’s name — still remembered — from the restaurant the character hasn’t set foot in for 10 years gives the song an emotional ballast no matter how often the audience has heard it. She understands how much of the character is a delightful New Yorker cartoon in songs like “I Put My Hand In,” while turning wrenching numbers like “Before the Parade Passes By” into arrows straight for the audience’s heart.

The heroine is a house of cards if her foil isn’t a worthy adversary, challenge, and prize; Lewis Stadlen excels at the prickly, calloused-by-the-world Horace Vandergelder. He takes the humanizing “Penny in My Pocket” in front of the curtain before the second act and makes it a tour de force. His classic borscht belt-recalling comedic flair litters the stage with laughs.

The supporting cast more than hold their own. Burns’ Barnaby stands out with ecstatic, acrobatic dancing; his character bursts from the shell of second-banana into someone you can’t take your eyes off of at the first downbeat. Leaming’s Irene hungers for adventure delights as she tears into songs like “Ribbons Down My Back.” Rouleau’s Cornelius charms as Irene’s counterpart, dragging Barnaby out of his comfort zone, and selling his features like “It Only Takes a Moment.”

No revival can fix the structural issues in the second act — it still feels like there are three, maybe four, endings — but Zaks downplays the dragging by filling the stage with a whip-crack ensemble bursting with life and color, aided by Santo Loquasto’s vibrant costumes and sets. In many ways, the principal star of this revival is Carlyle’s exciting, tight-yet-unhinged choreography. If the show’s a tribute to life, that life is most apparent when this excellent cast dance.

The Hello, Dolly! at the Ohio Theatre is a slice of throwback fun that would delight any long-time fan of this show and even gives skeptics, like myself, quite a bit to love.

Hello, Dolly! runs through May 12 with performances at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday, 8 p.m. Friday, 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. Saturday, 1:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. Sunday. For tickets and more info, visit columbus.broadway.com/shows/hello-dolly.

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